|Gen Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff|
Schwartz: Can I give you the straight story? I am not looking to expand the entitlement. Here is the problem we got and it’s a serious-ass problem.
Roy: That’s serious.
Schwartz: We’re talking a big number. The Department of Defense health care bill for active-duty [airmen] and retirees this year is about $40 billion. By the middle of the decade, or 2015, it will be about $60 billion. That’s more than 10 percent of the entire DoD budget just for health care. If we are not careful, we could end up like General Motors, where General Motors had personnel costs – including health care – that were so great that they stopped making good cars for awhile. So, here is the problem: If General Motors didn’t make good cars, you had other choices. What happens, though, if the Air Force or the other services aren’t able to produce the national security product that the American people expect? Where else do you go? This is a real problem.
And so I think what’s likely – and this won’t be popular and it won’t be easy to do – but we have not changed co-pays in Tricare since 1985. And health care costs have exploded since 1985. My take is that there is going to have to be a change that allows higher co-pays, more participation and so on. The bottom line is I am not an advocate for expanding yet again an already very lucrative Tricare entitlement. …You won’t be able to make it cheaper, but at least you can keep it from escalating. The deal is we can’t afford it or we’re going to stop flying F-16s or B-2s or C-17s or satellites or HH-60 helicopters, you name it. And that’s not where I want to be and – I’ll tell you what – I know it’s an emotional issue, but I don’t think the retiree community wants to be there either. Now we don’t want to put people in dire need on the street because that’s not what we are about because this is still a family.
ROA’s advocacy focuses on a number of entitlements such as Tricare with the caveat that they are connected to protecting National Security, our mission, by ensuring recruiting and retention are strong.
What are your thoughts on Gen Schwartz's comments? What are your thoughts on ROA’s continued advocacy for such entitlement programs?