As former secretary of defense Robert Gates remarked during his last year in office, health-care costs are eating the Pentagon alive. Both military and political leaders in the administration and members of Congress know this. Policy makers also know what must be done to bring these costs under control. But because of misleading arguments put forward primarily by the military lobby and a lack of political will, necessary steps will not be taken this year.
For FY 2012, the military health-care budget will be about $53 billion and consume about 10 percent of the baseline or nonwar defense budget. Over the last decade, these costs have grown by nearly 300 percent from $19 billion in FY 2001. Without reform, the Pentagon’s health-care bill is estimated to rise by another 28 percent to $64 billion by 2015. Should these costs continue to grow, health-care expenses for retirees will consume an increasingly outsized percentage of the budget and begin to divert funds away from other critical Defense Department programs.This article was originally published in The National Interest.