G. I. Bills

In the past few years, the United States Army has had to rely increasingly on financial incentives to recruit and retain soldiers. But even as the Army’s finance and payroll system administers ever larger sums of money and a growing number of entitlements, it must also track the hundreds of thousands of Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard personnel who are being moved in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans.

The Army’s payroll system, originally developed in the late 1970’s, has never been under so much strain. And just when the Army needs it most, it is failing. The Government Accountability Office has announced that as of last September, flaws in the Army’s system had resulted in $1.5 million in military debt on account of overpayments to close to 1,300 soldiers who were wounded or killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan; as a result, many of these soldiers and their families have been hounded by government debt collectors. Simply forgiving this debt is not a long-term solution: unless the Pentagon moves quickly to overhaul the system and reorder its priorities, there will be many more problems in the future.

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