My idea for cutting the military budget: Quit paying for dependents.

Not outright. Allow me to explain my plan.

First, any current dependents would be grandfathered in; nobody would be cut off. I wouldn’t prevent any member of the armed forces from getting married or having children. My rule would just be that for the first 6 years of a person’s enlistment, dependents would not be covered under military benefits.

So, if you enlist and already have dependents, they won’t be covered until you have served 6 years.

If you decide to up and get married, or have a kid before you have reached 6 years of enlistment, no military benefits to your spouse.

I haven’t crunched any numbers to try to figure out how much this would save, but I imagine that it would be significant.

And apart from budgetary issues, I think it could actually have some positive social effects on military culture.

This is a terrible idea, but out of curiosity, what dependent benefits do you think cost so much money?

I’m not sure I would take any job that would not allow me to provide benefits for my family for six years, especially (at least in today’s climate) given the ratio of danger to compensation that the military offers. I’m pretty pissed when I have to wait the customary 90 days for benefits to kick in for a safe desk job in office.

I can’t imagine this would help recruitment at all.

Equipment costs far, far more than the benefits.
Plus, that’s just another way to treat our soldiers like shit.

Cutting one Pentagon “future weapon” project will cover dependent costs for the next decade.

Try again.

Right, because if money’s tight, the first thing you want to do is hurt families and children. If they need groceries, then the soldier will just have to shop after the duty day is over, because wives shouldn’t be allowed in. And the kids don’t really need schooling, do they? Don’t they have the Internet for that now? And if a family member breaks and arm or gets an ear infection, it’s not like its going to affect the soldier’s readiness or morale, so why let those freeloaders go to the doctor?

And I agree with you about the culture improvement. We don’t want soldiers with stable home lives, at least not ones we’re paying for. We want young kids fresh out of high school with no families, because those people are the trustworthy and dependable ones.

Sorry, I think it’s a terrible idea. The saying goes that the Army recruits soldiers, but retains families. Following this scheme would tremendously lower morale and make recruitment that much harder.

What positive social effects would it possibly have?

Maybe Sicks Ate is afraid of all the war brides that aren’t coming home with our troops.

Health/dental/vision benefits cost money. But it’s not limited to that…as soon as you get married, you start getting other allowances. Housing and what amounts to grocery money, which can be quite generous depending on your location. It’s much cheaper to throw a single soldier in a room with 2 or 3 others and feed him in a chow hall than it is to pay him to live off base or throw him in a housing unit on base because he’s married.

There are those that would…it might not help recruitment, but isn’t the trend towards a leaner force, anyway? Tell a kid who is 18 or 19 that they can’t get married for 6 years if they want the job. I don’t think that’ll scare too many of them off.

Happy to debate whether we treat soldiers like shit. I don’t think we do.

All for that idea as well.

The idea is not to keep a service member form supporting their family. It’s to encourage them to NOT start a family during their first enlistment. If wifey has a sweet job that has good benefits, good on ya. Hers can cover the dependents. It doesn’t have to be on the military’s dime.

How would it lower morale?

I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing to have 20 year old service members getting married. Not my place to tell anybody how to conduct their lives, but I new plenty (myself included) of very young military guys who got married, and it was a stupid idea. Military divorce rates are high. I think it’s debatable whether it improves morale for a 22 year old soldier to have a wife and two kids at home while he’s deployed for a year.

I’ve had the idea for a while, but that’s actually the thread that prompted me to post it.

Well not until they do want to (or have to) get married and intentionally or untentionally have children. Then I see a series of guys in their early 20’s trying figure a way to get discharged (honorably, dishonorably, whatever processes that are available) in order to get a job where they actually can provide for the new family. That doesn’t sound great either.

When I was 18, I didn’t see a wife or children in my future for a long time. By the time I was 24 I was married, had a child and one on the way. I wouldn’t think that my experience is all that uncommon. Opinions, life choices and circumstances change significantly in the late teens to early 20’s.

I think what you and perhaps some others in this thread fail to understand is that a servicemember’s pay increases with each dependent, including a spouse.

Unlike the private sector or civilian government employees, servicemembers get an automatic raise when they acquire a spouse or children.

If private sector employees and civilian government employees can establish stable families without having their pay pegged to number of their dependents, there is no reason servicemembers cannot.

And yes, the instant gratification afforded by this automatic raise encourages ill-considered marriages and births.

Health/dental/vision costs aren’t much for most military families, since they tend to be young and healthy, and seeing military doctors (who you’re paying and training anyway, because you want doctors in the military) is relatively cheap.

Housing is a bit more nebulous, because it’s hard to come up with a cost for on-base housing, especially dorms on base. At my first duty station, they let single people move out of the dorms (and start collecting BAH) as soon as they made E-4 with a clean record. Definitely once they made E-5, which could happen in as little as 3.5 years in my case. The difference between BAH with and without dependents isn’t a whole lot. Where I lived in DC it’s currently $472/month for an E-4.

By “grocery money,” I’m guessing you’re talking BAS, which is a fixed rate regardless of your dependent status. It’s true that you don’t get BAS if you live on base, but that’s because meals are provided.

OK, let’s start pulling some numbers out of our asses. Best case scenario for this scenario: on-base housing and on-base meals cost the government $0, and every junior enlisted member is station in DC and has dependents.

I come up with a combined cost (full BAH + BAS) for an estimated 500,000 servicemembers in question at under $14 billion a year, out of a $700 billion budget.

Now, replace my fantastical best-case-scenario numbers with more realistic values (on-base housing and food costs money, not everyone lives in DC, not everyone wants dependents anyway) and the marginal cost of BAH and BAS for dependents of junior enlisted is probably in the $1-2 billion range. If that.

Find your cuts elsewhere.

This is 100% incorrect. Your base pay is fixed, and does not depend on your dependent status. BAS is also fixed, although you don’t get BAS if you’re living in dorms, and you get to move out of the dorms if you get married, so there’s a minor incentive there. BAH only comes in two flavors, with or without dependents. And of course, you don’t get BAH if you’re living in the dorms, so there’s also some incentive there.

But getting married counts as “having dependents.” At best, that gets you out of the dorms so you can start collecting BAS and BAH (at the “with dependents” rate). Having children at that point, you get 0 additional dollars. So it’s not correct to say that your pay increases with each dependent.

Military medicine may be cheap, but providing it to dependents cost something nonetheless.

I can understand letting junior NCOs live by themselves. I don’t think it’s necessary that they live off base, really. Sgts got their own room in the barracks, IIRC, maybe Corporals as well. But hell give them their own on-base house that we wouldn’t have to provide to a Lance Corporal with a wife and 3 kids.

Also, don’t forgot the kind of incidental expenses…things like schooling the kids. Transporting them. A lot of attractions at shopping/recreation areas on base are not aimed at single service members, they’re aimed at their wives and kids. Fewer wives and kids means less spending on these items. I guess one could keep picking out things like that, but the point is that there are numerous incidental expenses that can be traced to dependents.

Typically, people with less than 6 years time-in-service have little kids anyway, who aren’t in school. And you can’t exactly get rid of the commissary and all the on-base shopping and entertainment, because you’re providing that stuff for all the people with more than 6 years time-in-service.

I guess if there were “fewer” kids you could make the pool smaller.

$700 billion budget, save money by making the pool smaller.

eta: On-base housing has been getting outsourced for a long time. The military doesn’t want to deal with it. They’ve been slowly eliminating all the 2 bedroom houses as well (the ones they used to give to the single NCOs) because it’s just easier to maintain a stockpile of 4 and 5 bedroom houses and not worrying about how many bedrooms are empty. In other words, the military doesn’t seem to care about saving nickels and dimes on housing, or maybe they’re saving those nickels and dimes by contracting the whole thing out and squeezing the contractors.

Whee. That raises the costs to what…maybe $3 billion? That’s less than one weapons system that we are developing to address an enemy that doesn’t exist. And we are developing dozens of systems.

Hell, pull our people out of Afghanistan and let them breed like bunnies. That’ll save billions.

Do not ever, ever try to nickel and dime service personnel.

BAH may be a separate line-item on your pay stub, but the fact remains that the bottom line, the amount of your pay check, goes up with dependents.

This does not happen for the 99% of the workforce laboring in private or public civilian sectors, and amazingly, all those people are able to raise families, the absence of that benefit notwithstanding.

It is a question of fundamental fairness. Sergeant A, an E-5 with six years of service stationed at Ft. Leonard Wood with no dependents should not have a smaller paycheck than Sergeant B, also an E-5, also with six years, and also at Ft. Leonard Wood, but who has a spouse.

Especially so considering the same government is also in the business of not acknowledging certain marriages.

I got a better idea. How about we do away why pensions? After all, what 18 year old is looking that far ahead. Could probably do away with the VA because all 18 year olds think they are invincible. Shouldn’t hurt recruitment. And why pay the death gratuity to the families of dead soldiers? He’s no longer working for us and the family wasn’t the one killed.

That’s still $3 billion.

I agree with half of that proposition.

Nobody serving before the rule took effect would be nickel and dimed. Nobody who joined after would be nickel and dimed, because it would just be one more condition of employment by the military.

The *reductio ad absurdum *is strong with this one. But now that you mention it, modifying the pension arrangements should also be on the table.