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The Department of Defense [DoD] was created by National Security Act of 1947 by combining the War Department and the Department of the Navy. It was originally called the National Military Establishment [NME], but the name was changed after someone said the initials aloud. Under Rumsfeld and the Shrubbery, it might be a good idea to revert to the original name.

Jillian of skippy the bush kangaroo reported on the The San Diego Union-Tribune story about the food distribution on San Diego county military bases. The story mentioned the families of Marine Lance Corporals and Corporals, which are military pay grades E-3 and E-4 respectively.

I thought I would give you the numbers so you have some real idea of how we pay our military. These numbers are for a Corporal [E-4] with three years of service stationed in Iraq, who has a spouse and two pre-school children.

The Corporal receives the following compensation:
Base Pay: $ 22,111.20
Basic Allowance for Subsistence: 3,267.12
Basic Allowance for Housing: 17,928.00
Family Separation Allowance: 3,000.00
Imminent Danger Pay: 2,700.00
Total Annual Compensation: 49,006.32
Annual Payroll Withholding: 1,691.51
Net Annual Earnings: $ 47,314.81

The tax exemption for being in a combat zone is meaningless, as the Corporal doesn’t make enough taxable income to pay income taxes. Only the Base Pay is taxable, and a family of four can make up to $22,800 before there is an income tax liability. The Social Security and Medicare deductions continue in a combat zone.

Notice the Housing Allowance is almost as much as the Base Pay. That allowance for an E-4 is based on the mid-point between the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment and the average for a two-bedroom townhouse in San Diego County. The allowance for my area is $ 11,268.00.

The median income for San Diego County in 2005 is estimated to be $ 64,273.00, so, as I know from personal experience, it is an expensive place to live.

Because of the lack of housing on base, the lower ranks are forced to live off-base and that means owning a vehicle, which is expensive, but essential, in San Diego. Everyone living off-base is required to have a telephone. People living on-base don’t normally pay for utilities.

The deployed member is now paying for meals and duplicating possessions that were left at home. On the monthly $475 in “combat pay” and Family Separation Allowance, the deployed member must make do, or take money from his/her family back in “the world”. The family is paying extra for long distant phone calls and shipping “care packages”, often with essential items, to the deployed spouse.

One unexpected expense can take these people to a financial “train wreck”. They were living close to the edge when they were together, but the separation pushes them to the brink.


1 Steve Bates { 10.21.06 at 10:43 pm }

This is truly ugly.

That our troops are sent to war based on an out-and-out lie is deplorable. That their families are suffering genuine privation is obscene.

Many American families are just one financial misfortune away from total ruin, but most of those families are not forcibly separated from each other… some members shot at or targeted with IEDs, other members scraping to get by at a level that can only be called poverty. It doesn’t get much uglier than that.

Perhaps it’s not the whole of DoD, but rather just Rumsfeld, that deserves to be named the NME.

(Speaking of acronyms spoken aloud, once long ago, on the last day of a somewhat unpleasant contract, I was ordered to change the splash screen of an application to bear the title “Cardiovascular Risk Assessment Program.” I have to admit I did so without a peep. I am a bad person!)

2 Bryan { 10.21.06 at 11:09 pm }

Steve, they would be in pretty good shape somewhere else, as down here its the E-2s with families that are having problems, but San Diego County is an extremely expensive place to live, and there aren’t that many apartments up by Pendleton, so they have to live well away from the base and the less expensive services that exist there.

If the military would build base housing for these people, most of the problems would see improvement, but Rumsfeld wants everything outsourced.

3 cookiejill { 10.23.06 at 12:55 am }

It’s just so heartbreaking. Really. General Clark will be out here in Santa Barbara this week and hopefully we can get an idea of what we, as average americans can do to help our troops.

Thanks for the nod.

4 Bryan { 10.23.06 at 9:58 am }

Democrats in Congress would be a nice start, as an old sergeant once said: Republicans buy toys – Democrats pay the boys.