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Think tank asks troops to weigh in on pay, benefits

WASHINGTON — Researchers at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments are surveying troops and their families to see which pay and benefits packages are too important to lose, and which ones could be trimmed to help save the military money.

The survey can be found at www.csbamilsurvey.org. The work comes just days before the Pentagon unveils its fiscal 2013 budget proposal, the first spending plan featuring billions in defense cuts designed to help rein in the federal deficit.

Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at CSBA, said the goal is to inform future discussions about the benefits priorities of troops and their spouses. Questions cover issues like basic pay increases, housing stipends, health care costs and rules for retirement payouts.

Defense officials have pushed for a full study of the military retirement system, to see if any savings can be found through new payout schedules or service requirements. They’ve also already stated that troops will see reduced basic pay increases starting in 2015, based on upcoming financial restrictions put on the military budget.

Harrison said he hopes to have his survey finished in the next few weeks, in time to help shape lawmakers’ discussions about budget priorities.

UPDATE: Officials at the Veterans of Foreign Wars aren't happy with the survey's options and underlying themes.

In a statement, VFW Legislative Director Ray Kelley said the group “does not accept the notion that cuts to personnel programs and benefits are the only viable solution. We have an obligation to provide for our war-fighters and their loved ones, and the VFW will not let Congress or the Pentagon shirk that obligation.”

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