I was pleasantly surprised to read about Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ efforts to cut the ongoing military waste so prevalent in the Army today ("DOD looks to curb spending on troops," article, May 9).

While I sincerely appreciate the attempts being made by Congress to recognize the many sacrifices being made by our soldiers on a daily basis, paying us more isn’t the answer. Repairing the messy state our Army is currently in would go leaps and bounds beyond a 1.9 percent yearly pay raise (that’s about $25 extra a month!) and show soldiers that we respect both them and the things they do.

For instance: Why are we wasting money on providing morbidly obese active-duty soldiers with health care? Not only is it a strain on health care benefits, but no one wants to wait in line at the doctor’s office, let alone serve beside someone who doesn’t respect themselves enough to stay in shape or his/her fellow soldiers enough to remain in fighting form. It’s time to show our soldiers we respect them by removing their battle buddies who refuse to meet the so-called "Army standard," freeing up time and money being wasted on these individuals.

Furthermore, why are we wasting thousands of dollars on hiring contractors to do jobs we have trained soldiers capable of accomplishing? Better yet, if a soldier isn’t capable, then provide him/her with the training he/she needs, which will still cost far less than those six-figure salaries we seem to dole out like so much candy. Many of us in today’s Army are tired of sitting on the sidelines as our jobs are farmed out to people making three to four times what we do.

Regardless, Gates’ efforts have far-reaching implications and I hope that he’s given the support necessary to make our Army a leaner, more efficient entity.

Staff Sgt. Andrew BakerJoint Security Station Justice, Iraq

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