BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KAINE. Mr. President, today I am introducing, with Senator CORNYN, the Servicemembers' Compensation Empowerment Act of 2014. This bipartisan legislation will direct the Department of Defense's (DoD) Military Retirement and Modernization Commission to formally survey military personnel on pay and benefits, and to take relative preferences into account as the Commission prepares its recommendations.
Virginia is more connected to the military than any other State. As I have traveled throughout the Commonwealth, I have had the opportunity to meet and discuss military benefits with servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The overriding concern on the part of our military and their families is sequestration. It has forced the military to allow the budget to drive strategy, rather than strategy to drive our budget. As a member of both the Senate Armed Services and Budget Committees, I firmly believe that all budget proposals should be considered carefully in light of the need for deficit redaction, the need to maintain a strong military, and the responsibility we have to support our servicemembers with resources to complete their mission.
The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was established by the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, to conduct a review of military compensation and retirement systems and to make recommendations to enable the quality of life of our military and their families and achieve fiscal sustainability for the future. As of now, no official study has been conducted by the Commission to determine the relative value of compensation and benefit programs to the military personnel who depend on them. Under my legislation, the Commission would be required to survey randomly selected members of the military concerning basic pay, housing allowances, bonuses and special pay, dependent healthcare and retirement pay and report its results to Congress.
Servicemembers deserve to have their voices heard as changes to the pay and benefits packages they depend on most are considered. By formally surveying military personnel on the benefits they value most, we can ensure the Military Retirement and Modernization Commission and members of Congress have the best possible understanding of how cost-saving proposals would impact our servicemembers and their families, allowing them to make decisions with evidence-based analysis.
This bill gives servicemembers a voice in the process, and will assure that reforms will take a scientific study into account. We must balance the competing needs to control rising costs with ensuring we meet the needs of military personnel and their families.