Hardware, …, ideas, people

The FY2009 DoD budget proposal calls for increases ranging from 100% to 400% in TRICARE (the military medical program for active duty and retirees) pharmacy fees, moving TRICARE in a single step from one of the best drug benefit programs to one that is decidedly second rate.

As the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) notes in its description of the new proposals, which are included in DoD’s record-setting $515 billion request (that figure does not include operations in Iraq and Afghanistan):

For one data point, MOAA’s own employee plan (BlueCross BlueShield) offers our employees retail medications for copays of $10 (generic), $20 (brand) and $35 (non-formulary brand) — lower across the board than proposed for military beneficiaries. The TRICARE copays also would exceed those offered under many plans available to legislators and federal civilians.

Most telling of all, Wal-Mart offers over 360 medications at a copayment of only $4 to anyone who walks in the door.

The services don’t seem to be up in arms to protect their members or retirees. They have not, however, been reluctant to ask for $30 billion to buy hardware over and above what DoD put in the budget proposal. The Air Force has even threatened to buy nearly 200 additional F-22s despite the refusal of the Secretary of Defense and the President to include them in the budget:

“We’re committed to funding 380,” [General Bruce] Carlson [commander of Air Force Material Command] said. “We’re building a program right now to do that. It’s going to be incredibly difficult on the Air Force, but we’ve done this before.” “General Says USAF Will Procure 380 F-22s, Despite OSD,” Aerospace Daily, February 14, 2008.

Although TRICARE is not funded out of the Air Force (or any service) budget, it is easy to see where that service’s heart is.

And the Army is proposing to spend billions more (which are included in the budget) to recruit new soldiers:

After lowering its own education standards and accepting a rising number of recruits who would have been considered unfit a few years ago, the Army’s initiatives — costing a large part of the $15 billion it will receive to add more soldiers — underscore the difficulty it faces in signing up enough young men and women to add 65,000 soldiers to its ranks over the next three years. Bryan Bender, “Army To Boost Perks For Recruits,” Boston Globe, February 9, 2008.

[Note to military officers: If you aren’t a member of MOAA, now might be a very good time to consider it — Chet Richards, MOAA member]

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Filed in Uncategorized | 17 responses so far

17 Responses to “Hardware, …, ideas, people”

  1. jaylemeuxon 16 Feb 2008 at 3:23 am 1

    one can only hope that the pharmacy fees will go toward programs that teach people how to live a healthy lifestyle in the first place rather than to buy government-subsidized poison once they have a manmade illness.

  2. rogelio007on 16 Feb 2008 at 11:34 am 2

    Military benefits in general are eroding. The PX/BX is now a joke. Over and over I find the exact same item cheaper at Wal-Mart.

  3. Cheton 16 Feb 2008 at 11:50 am 3

    jaylemeux — Well, I guess that’s always possible. More likely, it will go into buying more F-22s. The lobbyists for both the pharmaceutical and defense industries seem to have more clout than the lobbyists for “healthy lifestyle” interests.

  4. Cheton 16 Feb 2008 at 11:59 am 4

    rogelio007 —

    Know what you mean — I hardly ever go to the PX anymore (except that our Class VI store is inside it).

    To me it is amazing that the Army is spending billions to recruit and train new soldiers (of increasingly marginal aptitude — recruiting must be one of the toughest jobs in the Army nowadays), but then dilute the benefit package that might keep them in until retirement.

    Point is, though, that in a system like ours, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As I said, if you’re eligible for MOAA or other organization with similar purpose, and you don’t join and participate, you have only yourself to blame.

    MOAA maintains a pretty comprehensive list of administration efforts to water down the benefit package for service personnel (true, all recent administrations have tried this, but the current one was supposed to be more attuned to the needs of people in the military). If you’re upset about pharmacy charges, you should see what they have in mind for other TRICARE fees.

  5. maximilliangcon 16 Feb 2008 at 1:15 pm 5

    Forget this discussion.
    THIS is far more important and pressing for the powers that be.


    The recent spectacle of Congressional hearings on the alleged use of steroids and/or Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by Roger Clemons, a professional baseball player nicknamed “the Rocket,” throws into question the viability and functionality of a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party.

    While this hearing was underway, thousands of miles away, in Iraq , American service members continued the ugly business of occupying Iraq . That Waxman would abuse his position by pursuing such trivia while Americans continued to fight and die in a war built exclusively on a framework of lies is disturbing.

  6. maximilliangcon 16 Feb 2008 at 1:24 pm 6

    rogelio007 said, on February 16th, 2008 at 11:34 am
    Military benefits in general are eroding. The PX/BX is now a joke. Over and over I find the exact same item cheaper at Wal-Mart.

    That’s sad, and there’s an underlieing sadness and longing that haunts
    this thread.

    A little issue that this is so very telling of the overall attitide,
    and reality that pervades.

    Is anybody in the US miltary particuarly happy these days ?

    Moreover, is Anybody in the United States particuarly happy these days ?


  7. gracaton 16 Feb 2008 at 2:39 pm 7

    We have been dealing with TriCare for over four years now. Trying to keep an 88 year old WWII and Korea combat veteran clean, pain free and comfortable until he leaves us. The man has been bed ridden two years now. Has suffered two unexplained broken bones in the nursing home. Veiled threats of asking him to leave if you complain too much etc.

    If this if TriCare now. God help us if it loses more funding. God help us all!

  8. maximilliangcon 16 Feb 2008 at 4:31 pm 8

    Here’s an IDEA, STOP doing THIS,


    From the Los Angeles Times
    Iraqis say U.S. mistakenly fired on them again
    Head of a volunteer security group says such attacks are threatening a pact with the American military.
    By Alexandra Zavis
    Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

    8:09 AM PST, February 15, 2008

    Baghdad — Three neighborhood security guards were killed and two others were injured when an American helicopter fired at their checkpoint south of Baghdad early today, police said.

    It was the latest in a string of complaints about errant strikes that are stoking tensions between the mostly Sunni Arab fighters and their U.S. backers.

    Sheik Mohammed Ghuriari, who heads the so-called Awakening Councils that supply fighters to protect neighborhoods in north Babil province, said it was the third U.S.-led strike on one of their checkpoints in less than two months.

  9. ski66on 16 Feb 2008 at 5:38 pm 9

    The PX and commissary systems are antiquated and irrelevant in my opinion. As Col. Richards states, you can find better buys in Wal-Mart and the Costco-like megamarts that litter the American landscape. If the military can’t get better deals, shelve the entire program, and use the money for better housing and healthcare.

    As far as medical benefits go, I have had terrible personal experiences with military dentists and half decent experiences with military docs. Luckily my wife is a civilian PA and I can get her to cut through the BS.

  10. mickeypvxon 16 Feb 2008 at 8:45 pm 10

    Aww, what the crap. I’ll agree with the BX/PX being nothing spectacular anymore. The only thing you can really look forward to is no sales tax, but other stores can easily keep prices lower even with tax. The only thing I go there for is the usual haircut and maybe to pick up a few extraneous items. Point is, when deciding whether to go to Walmart or the BX around here, it really just boils down to whichever one’s closer.

    And as far as buying more F-22’s, what’s the point? Other than maybe somebody’s figuring out that a paltry 183 won’t come close to replacing the 750+ F-15’s still in the inventory as was the original intent. Which basically means that the assertions of Pierre Sprey and Col. Riccioni were spot on in that department. The problem is, if the Air Force thinks in the attritionist mindset (and they do), and the F-22 can down thousands of aircraft per every F-22 lost (theoretically), wouldn’t 183 be plenty?

    Oh, sorry, it hasn’t seen a minute of combat. So really we don’t know how well it will actually do. Hey! Let’s keep buying them and “upgrading” them until we can figure out a reason we bought them in the first place! In the meantime, we can put the expense of doing that on the shoulders of the people that actually work on the damn thing.

    I’m just going to pretend that’s not what’s really happening.

  11. maximilliangcon 17 Feb 2008 at 1:09 am 11

    “Which basically means that the assertions of Pierre Sprey and Col. Riccioni were spot on in that department.”

    Spot on ! No kidding my friend.
    On that point AND pretty much everything else.

    Including performance. I’ve never seen a contemporary fighter
    (particuarly one hyped at nauseum the way the Raptor is) bleed
    energy in the vertical like the F-22, it makes the Tomcat look
    like a rocket.

    Exemplifed not only in the F-22 but also the B-1, B-2, and now
    even the F-35/JSF which was supposed to offer an affordable
    option, in large quantities.

    Don’t get me started, I have a seperate topical forum
    dedicated to this.


    *”that’s what really GETS you about him, he’s always gotta be right ~!”
    *James Stuart
    Flight Of The Pheonix
    Original classic.

  12. rogelio007on 17 Feb 2008 at 9:11 am 12

    “until we can figure out a reason we bought them in the first place!”

    We buy F-22s because the Air Force thinks it is still 1989. They still want to fight the Soviet Union. Even worse, the Navy wants more aircraft carriers because they think it is still 1942. They still want to fight the Japanese Empire.

  13. jrbehrmanon 17 Feb 2008 at 1:42 pm 13

    This decline and shabbiness is characteristic of debt-driven government, including our Stalinist “public/private partnerships” at all levels:

    People are a liability.

    “Property” — increasingly FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) — is an “asset” which can be valued or priced “over-the-counter” by “financial institutions” not by anything resembling an exchange market.

    Technology development runs to Potempkin stunts and follies as practical technology flows out of the country.

    Both political parties ordinarily compete for the favor of property and are astonishingly indifferent to the sentiments of the people. This is nothing like a tyranny, … yet. It is suffocating civic virtue and martial valor. But, the extreme political challenge comes after another catastrophe. We are not there yet.

    This is not noticable as the sort of “misery” the Soviet people experienced at the end of their empire because (a) we can, for instance, use the media to make, say, war casualties invisible, and (b) we can borrow enough publicly and privately from abroad to keep up appearances, for instance, to allow people with zero net worth to live in “McMansions”.

    Curiously, the public seems to be aware that something is not right. They are up in arms with the entrenched (and irresponsible or extremist) establishements of both parties. So, there are some self-correcting mechanisms left to our people, our economy, and our polity.

  14. maximilliangcon 17 Feb 2008 at 3:19 pm 14

    jrbehrman said,

    “Property” — increasingly FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) — is an “asset” which can be valued or priced “over-the-counter” by “financial institutions” not by anything resembling an exchange market.”

    Now that is a most interesting statement, and although I’m aware of it when
    I pay “insurance,” I havn’t stopped to really think about it in that context.

    Your local government does exactly the same with property tax assesements,
    and insofar as taxes and isurance is concerned, the two have an equivency.
    Taken to logical extreams that leads to the re-distribution of private wealth,
    to government, and corporate interests.

    Add that to the consumer and gizmo driven economy.

    “Both political parties ordinarily compete for the favor of property and are astonishingly indifferent to the sentiments of the people.”

    If I understand you correctly, that’s a trend that’s endemic in American scociety,
    and elswhere. The US military and industrial complex provides a good example.
    Where, equipment, and “things” come at an ever increasing premium.

    “This is not noticable as the sort of “misery” the Soviet people experienced”
    “Curiously, the public seems to be aware that something is not right.”

    Agreed, that’s it exactly, if we can only keep pepole at home glued to thier TVs,
    video games and computers, and provide basic bread and circus’s and keep feeding
    them the hype, to the extent of a degree of brainwashing and self hypnosis,
    about how great their country is.

    However, pepole, scollarly, and particularly past a certian age, who once knew
    different, realise that indeed “something is not right.”

    The rest of your post jr, is also insightfull and quite brilliant.

    Economics, scocial and mas phycology cannot be overlooked nor over empahsised
    in the study of warfare and it’s effects.

    In that sense, I’d say there’s a burgeoning, so far, low intesnsity 4th generational conflict well underway inside the USA, and on several fronts.


  15. mickeypvxon 17 Feb 2008 at 10:03 pm 15


    Hey, you got a link for that discussion? I’d love to join. Haven’t heard the vertical E-bleeding though, but it makes sense to anyone that can do quick mental math: 2 engines at 35,000lbs thrust < 80,000lbs worth of airplane + drag. I’ve also read that some F-15 pilots that flew in it said the performance isn’t much different from what they were already used to. Meanwhile the F-16’s the Thunderbirds fly can accelerate vertically while pulling snap rolls. Awesome.

  16. loggie02on 17 Feb 2008 at 11:04 pm 16

    200 more F-22 are jobs in the Lockheed and Boeing plants, nothing more. Buying votes.

    Who needs supercruise? what is this stealth. Worse there Chinese have a high manuever variant of the Su 27 which will do all the things the supposed 5th generation fighter will do.

    It is all about the industry base.

    Which ain’t nothing to write home about were they ever to build something actually needed it would be run off the field like the French army in 1940.

  17. maximilliangcon 18 Feb 2008 at 12:22 am 17


    “Hey, you got a link for that discussion?”

    With our most esteemed and gracious hosts approval.

    Enjoy, research, read, learn.