Former Military Officials Weigh In On Pros, Cons of Pension Overhaul


Pension360 has closely covered the proposed overhaul of the military’s retirement system, including a shift from a defined-benefit plan to a 401(k)-style plan.

The State this week interviewed a half-dozen retired military officials, who expressed several concerns about the overhaul but also noted that the current system may not be economically viable.

One official said the overhaul could make it harder to recruit and retain talented military men. From the State:

Some veterans organizations worry that the changes will hurt retention of talented soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

“The new proposal doesn’t have enough in it to retain the very best officer for 20 years,” retired Army Col. Mike Barron, spokesman for the Military Officer Association of America, told The State newspaper.

Barron added that young service members often don’t have the financial savvy to handle their own 401(k) plan. And having to contribute to it would force lower-paid troops to choose between retirement and bills.

The officers association and some other veterans groups favor a “blended” plan that would create the 401(k) system but retain the full pension plan, he said.

But other officials expressed the need for reform. From the State:

For Col. Bryan Hilferty of Sumter, who retired last August from U.S. Army Central, formerly Third Army, the current system has to change in light of budget cuts being made after 14 years of war.

“I think we have to modernize and economize the system,” said Hilferty, U.S. Army Central’s former director of communications. “This is one hack at it.”


“I don’t see how [a blended plan is] viable,” said Hilferty, who once was chief spokesman for U.S. Army Central, which plans and conducts military ground operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia and is headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.

Soldier advocacy organizations such as the Military Officers Association that want a second layer of retirement plans “just want more, more, more” and do not recognize that active duty soldiers face losing their jobs. “That is not selfless service,” he said. “It’s not patriotic.”

The overhaul is still at the committee level in the U.S. Congress.


Photo by Brian Schlumbohm/Fort Wainwright PAO

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