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Calculate exact cost of each troop, group urges

Jan. 14, 2013 - 04:57PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 - 04:57PM  |  
A Pentagon advisory group is urging the Defense secretary to figure out how much taxpayers actually spend to keep troops in uniform.
A Pentagon advisory group is urging the Defense secretary to figure out how much taxpayers actually spend to keep troops in uniform. (Musadeq Sadeq / AP file)
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A Pentagon advisory group is urging the Defense secretary to figure out how much taxpayers actually spend to keep troops in uniform.

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A Pentagon advisory group is urging the Defense secretary to figure out how much taxpayers actually spend to keep troops in uniform.

The Reserve Forces Policy Board sent a report to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's desk Friday recommending the Pentagon create a formal method to calculate the cost of adding or cutting troops from the force.

That would help the Pentagon, Congress and others identify the best way to save money at a time of increased budget pressure, the group says.

"Major military manpower decisions are uninformed on the real present and future costs," the report said. "Although the Department requires its contractors to provide fully-burdened and life-cycle cost computations on their invoices and the Department's acquisition process requires the same before approving the purchase of major weapon systems, The Reserve Forces Policy Board found that the Department does not know, use, or track the fully-burdened and life-cycle costs of its most expensive resource — its military personnel."

The report makes several recommendations to the secretary, which include:

• Establish a written policy for computing fully-burdened military personnel costs for active and reserve components.

• Specify all the elements that must be included in cost studies, such as retirement accrual, housing costs and family services.

• Identify other costs outside the Defense Department budget that must be considered, such as veterans benefits that are paid for through the Veterans Affairs Department budget.

• Calculate and report cost element figures annually.

Those numbers may influence future decisions about defense spending.

The board made its own calculation and estimates that each active-duty service member costs taxpayers about $385,000 every year, and reservists cost about $125,000.

Those estimates include base pay, benefits, retirement pensions as well as the operational costs of training and equipping them.

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