February 7, 2008:
Over the last decade,
the U.S. Department of Defense has sharply increased bonuses and benefits for
the troops. Since 2003, the army has increased spending on retention bonuses
from $85 million a year, to over $700 million. The higher figure is still less
than one percent of payroll cost, and is but one of several high value cash
benefits that total several percent of payroll cost. The other big one is
college education loans and cash to cover education expenses.
But as all of this was put together
over the years of peace, one item was overlooked. What if the beneficiary of
these bonuses and loans was killed in action? The existing regulations made no
provision for that, but did recognize that recipients might be unable to finish
their service because of misbehavior or illness. And the remedy for that was
paying back all or part of the bonuses and loans already received. That worked
in peacetime, but in the past few years, the military bureaucrats have
automatically applied the peacetime rules to troops who were killed in combat.
That raised a stink, and now Congress is passing laws to amend all these
benefits deals, so that the next-of-kin of those killed in action will not have
government bill collectors sent in right after the funeral.