First we must understand the system in place today. Simply, service to 20 years while on active duty gets one a military pension, although at the lowest level of 50 percent of base pay (BP). Service to 30 gets one the maximum allowable by law, 75 percent of base pay. Recently I listened to retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper share his thoughts on this very issue. Van Riper advocated longer time in grade with a view toward longer terms of service, noting that when the current system was created, over 50 years ago, the average 45-50 year-old (normally male) smoked, drank, and did not eat and exercise in a manner that led to long-term health. The current system was designed because between the 20 to 30 year stretch was statistically when military personnel had been physically and emotionally “used up.” However, these conditions no longer apply.

Today, folks are a lot healthier when they retire and could reasonably be expected to serve under the generally harsher circumstance of military service longer than they could in the past. The current system needs to recognize and account for the improvements in healthcare and lifestyle by those Americans who qualify for military service in its promotion and retention policies, and it should do this with meaningful policy change.

When it comes to implementation of change, I am with the incrementalists.