The Administration made a grave error in rejecting the reorganization of military pay scales suggested by the Cordiner Committee.
Although almost everyone has his brush with the military, it is the career enlisted men and officers on whom the nation's defense rests. The tendency at present is for only the mediocre, the neurotic, or those trapped by financial necessity, to remain after they have fulfilled their military obligation. And in the case of most critical skills, it takes many thousands of dollars and several years to train competent personnel. Yet private industry most often reaps the fruit of this expensive training, because less than one out of four re-enlist for a second term. Even this appallingly low figure is misleading because twice as many soldiers in the so-called "soft" skills, such as cooks or truck drivers re-enlist as those in the "hard" skills, such as guided missile technicians and the like.
The Cordiner Report calls for the abandonment of the "Methuselah" system of granting pay increases on the basis of seniority and time-in grade, and substituting a scale that would offer increased rewards to the skilled, productive, and responsible. They suggest that these pay increases go into effect only with non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers, those whom the government feels have a large enough stake in the military to make it a career. The Plan would also bring the salaries of civilian technical employees of the military closer to the standards of private industry, and give recruits, especially those with families, something closer to a living wage.
The Report couples these proposals for increased incentives with a system for weeding-out unproductive personnel, requiring all those capable of further training to take advantage of it or risk severance. These proposals, putting the peacetime army on the same standards that prevail in the world outside, would seem to work for a more capable--and more economical--fighting force. Its supporters claim that, though it would cost about $650 million per year to implement, it would effect annual savings of $5 billion by 1960. Nevertheless, the Administration put the report back in the files on the grounds that it would result in inflationary pressure.
Both economy and fairness seem to demand that they re-examine this decision and apply at least some of the report's recommendations.
Of course, much more than financial improvement is needed to take the futility and ennui out of military life and make it an attractive and respectable career, but the "green pastures plan" could put an end to widespread feather-bedding, and to small and unnecessary jobs in which no one could take pride.