The 2013 Military Times Poll points out two major disparities between officers and enlisted troops and one point on which they agree:
Officers are far happier with their pay and quality of life.
Officers have a far higher opinion of their own leadership, and that of senior noncommissioned officers.
Officers and enlisted members, particularly younger ones, are increasingly open to military retirement reform.
The three issues are closely linked.
The officer-enlisted divide dates from an era when college degrees were held almost exclusively by officers. today, many enlisted members are college graduates or are pursuing degrees.
Today’s NCO increasingly does work that was once reserved for officers, yet is paid disproportionately less. An E-9 with 30 years earns only what an O-4 with 12 years makes; an E-6 with 20 years is paid no better than an O-2 with two years.
Similarly outdated is the 20-year retirement system. too many officers and enlisted troops stay beyond their usefulness just to get to 20 years, while hard-chargers quit, frustrated with a system too rigid to allow for truly rapid promotion.
A fairer system would allow every member to accumulate retirement savings whether they complete four, 12, 20 or more years. That would foster a more fluid advancement system, allow more people to leave happily after 10, 12 or 15 years and make it possible for more of the best people to stay longer, based on the needs of the services.
The fact that the vast majority of the force — the young people who are its future — is open to retirement reform means the time may be ripe for change in a system that has furthered the divide between officers and enlisted ranks as haves and have-nots.