By Kristina Wong
A congressionally appointed commission studying military pay and compensation reform is preparing to issue recommendations in the coming weeks, a spokesman for the panel said Monday.
The recommendations come as the White House and members of Congress look to reduce the costs of troop benefits amid budget tightening at the Pentagon.
”It’s fair to say we have identified a number of efficiencies,” Jamie Graybeal, spokesman for the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, told The Hill on Monday.
He said rather than cutting benefits, the panel was focused on making them more efficient, modern and valuable to service members and their families. The commission was created in 2013 to tackle the thorny issues of military pay and benefit expenses, which the Pentagon officials say have become unsustainable.
Military advocacy groups oppose reducing benefits that troops and their families have been promised, after a decade of war and repeated deployments. The commission’s recommendations will be submitted to the President and Congress no later than Feb. 1, and will be made available to the public at the same time, Graybeal said.
The Pentagon is expected submit its 2016 budget request to the White House at around the same time. The recommendations are not expected to be accounted for, but have been designed so they could be incorporated at any time, Graybeal said.
The commission’s final report will include the recommendations and how they would be implemented, as well as draft legislation and a discussion of the costs of each recommendation.
The president will have 60 days to evaluate the commission’s recommendations or ask for more information. However, the White House is scheduled to submit its 2016 budget request to Congress in March, about 30 days later. Graybeal said he could not speculate whether any of the recommendations would be incorporated.
“It is our hope that recommendations will be considered during the current budget season,” said Graybeal, noting that Congress — which has final say over the Pentagon’s budget — is not barred from considering the recommendations on their own.
He said there is a perception that the commission was created to slash benefits but that it has actually focused on “modernizing benefit design, getting rid of redundancies, and improving benefits not valued by service members.”
”Protecting the all-volunteer force was foremost in their minds,” Graybeal said. ”The commission ha[s] been very focused on modernizing the design of the compensation programs to ensure that they are useful to the services as they try to recruit and retain a quality all-volunteer force and that they are valued by the service members and family members themselves.”