Top Marine Ducks Friendly Fire On Pay Issue

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A top Marine who testified to a Congressional subcommittee in favor of cuts to the pay and benefits of active duty and retired service members is taking cover to avoid a barrage of unfriendly verbal fire from his fellow Marines.

"I truly believe it will raise discipline. You'll have better spending habits. You won't be so wasteful," Marine Sgt. Major Michael Barrett told senators, who are considering lower pay increases and benefits for U.S. military personnel.

So far, nearly 500 comments on the story reporting his comments have appeared, many of them disagreeing with the major in blunt Marine style.

In an open letter to his fellow Marines, Barrett blamed "recent reporting" of his testimony before the Senate Armed Forces personnel subcommittee for leaving them with "a mistaken impression that I don't care about your quality of life and that I support lower pay for service members."

Here's what Sgt. Major Barrett actually said, as reported by the Marine Corps Times: "Marines don't run around asking about compensation, retirement modernization," he said. "That's not on their mind. As I talk to thousands of audiences, they want to know into whose neck do we put a boot next.

"They want to know about what new equipment are we getting, are we continuing to modernize. Just because the budget sucks, does that mean we're not going to get our new gear?"

The newspaper noted that Barrett's counterparts in other services apparently disagreed. They testified that lower pay raises, scaled-back commissary offerings and smaller housing stipends "would be problematic for many service members." The Marine Corps Times is an independent publication owned by the Military Times Group and Gannett Government Group.

The Defense Department proposal now being reviewed by the Senate would slow the growth of military pay and benefits, beginning in fiscal 2015. It would limit the pay raise for most service members to one percent, compared with the current year's 1.8%. It also would reduce the growth of housing allowances and subsidies to commissaries, and change health-care co-pays.

Overall, the budget cuts would save $2.1 billion a year, which the Defense Department proposes to transfer to line items for readiness and weapons modernization spending.

In his open letter to the Marines, Barrett did not back down. He argued that the military must slow the growth of compensation and benefits or "we won't have sufficient dollars for what we need – investment in our warfighting capabilities and our wonderful Marine and family care programs."

Barrett is the top enlisted man in the Marines, and won medals for valor in the Gulf War and Iraq.
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