Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

McCain Adviser Misleadingly Cites CBO Report, Says Webb’s GI Bill ‘Does Nothing To Address Reenlistment’

Posted on  

"McCain Adviser Misleadingly Cites CBO Report, Says Webb’s GI Bill ‘Does Nothing To Address Reenlistment’"

Share:

google plus icon

On Fox News’s America’s Election HQ yesterday, Nancy Pfotenhauer, a senior policy adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), disingenuously attacked Sen. Jim Webb’s “21st Century GI Bill,” in order to justify her boss’s opposition to the bill. Webb’s bill “does nothing to address reenlistment and retention,” charged Pfotenhauer.

Pfotenhauer cited a recent Congressional Budget Office report to support her specious claims:

Senator McCain has his own legislation, and by the way, he’s largely supportive of the goals of the Webb bill. The problem is, it doesn’t do enough — it doesn’t it quickly enough and it does nothing to address reenlistment and retention. In fact, CBO, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the Webb bill went through, we’d see a reduction in reenlistment rates of 16 percent.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/05/McCainAdviserGIBill.320.240.flv]

But, as ThinkProgress has noted, the CBO report cited by Pfotenhauer actually shows that Webb’s bill would increase enlistment to such an extent that it would completely offset the loss in retention:

Literature on the effects of educational benefits on retention suggest that every $10,000 increase in educational benefits yields a reduction in retention of slightly more than 1 percentage point. CBO estimates that S. 22 (as modified) would more than double the present value of educational benefits for servicemembers at the first reenlistment point — from about $40,000 to over $90,000 — implying a 16 percent decline in the reenlistment rate, from about 42 percent to about 36 percent. […]

Educational benefits have been shown to raise the number of military recruits. Based on an analysis of the existing literature, CBO estimates that a 10 percent increase in educational benefits would result in an increase of about 1 percent in high-quality recruits. On that basis, CBO calculates that raising the educational benefits as proposed in S. 22 would result in a 16 percent increase in recruits.

Sen. John Warner (R-AZ), a co-sponsor of Webb’s bill who is also a veteran of World War II and Korea, has said that the flip side of the impact on retention is that “putting a big piece of cheese out there will induce more qualified people to join just to get this.”

The Army is in need of new incentives like Webb’s bill in order to attract higher quality recruits. Thus far, in 2008, 13 percent of the Army’s recruits have been granted “conduct” waivers for misdemeanor or felony charges, which is up from 11 percent in 2007 and 4.6 percent in 2004.

Transcript:

HEMMER: Nancy, I want to get to the back-and-forth between Obama and McCain in the campaigns today. That got pretty sharp, actually, about the G.I. Bill. Senator Barack Obama, listen here, on his address to McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.: I have great respect for John McCain’s service to this country. I know he loves it dearly and honors those who serve, but John McCain is one of the few senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it’s too generous. He thinks it’s too generous. I could not disagree with him more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Pretty sharp words there. Nancy, your response?

PFOTENHAUER: Oh, talk about just flagrant political pandering. I mean, that was so – that is diametrically opposed to the truth. And let me just point out that about this time last year, Senator Obama voted against $94.4 billion that would help our troops in a time of war.

Senator McCain has his own legislation, and by the way, he’s largely supportive of the goals of the Webb bill. The problem is, it doesn’t do enough — it doesn’t it quickly enough and it does nothing to address reenlistment and retention. In fact, CBO, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the Webb bill went through, we’d see a reduction in reenlistment rates of 16 percent.

The other thing that’s critically different with Senator McCain’s legislation is that he supports transferability of education credits, and the Webb bill doesn’t do that. And what I mean by transferability, if you’re a veteran and you have education benefits but you are, for some reason, unable to take advantage of them yourself, Senator McCain’s legislation would allow you to give that to your spouse, give that to your child, make sure that they’re allowed and your family is still allowed to benefit.

HEMMER: Nancy, not to split hairs here, but this an important here, from what I understand, McCain’s proposal would take longer for servicemen and servicewomen to qualify for education subsidies. Is that it in a nutshell?

PFOTENHAUER: That is not my understanding, Bill. My understanding is that we are more generous upfront but it’s a graduated scale. So that the longer you stay in the military, the more you are compensated. And that is absolutely essential for retention.

HEMMER: All right. One of the many issues we’re going to get into over the coming weeks and months ahead, OK? Nancy Pfotenhauer, good to have you on tonight, all right? Come on back.

PFOTENHAUER: Thank you, Bill.

« »

By clicking and submitting a comment I acknowledge the ThinkProgress Privacy Policy and agree to the ThinkProgress Terms of Use. I understand that my comments are also being governed by Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policies as applicable, which can be found here.