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Megan McArdle

Military Pensions Are 'Bloated' for a Reason

If we move the nation's military members off the current defined-benefit system, we are probably going to have to make up for it in some other way.
If you want it, here it is. Come and get it.

If you want it, here it is. Come and get it.

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

To an outsider, military pensions sound ridiculous; you can put in 20 years starting in your late teens or early 20s and "retire" at the time when most people are hitting their peak earning years. Obviously, that's a very expensive benefit for the government to provide. Should we ratchet up the retirement age? Some economists think we should.

People supporting the status quo will probably argue that the military is more physically demanding than most jobs, and therefore you have to expect people to retire earlier. But the pension is available to everyone in the military, not just infantrymen. Moreover, it is disproportionately used by officers, not enlisted men, and by the time they have 20 years in, officers are spending a lot less time hauling heavy things and running around in the mud.