NORFOLK- Local military leaders are warning about potentially dire consequences if cuts are made to Military retirement benefits. Their warnings came at the first field hearing of theMilitary Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, a panel that will make recommendations for modernizing the programs to President Barack Obama and Congress in the spring of 2014. The commission held the field hearing at theWaterside Marriott in Norfolk.

Commission members heard Monday afternoon from two military leaders, Col. John Allen, U.S. Air Force, Commander of Joint Base Langley-Eusits in Hampton, and Vice Admiral Michael Conner, U.S. Navy, Commander of Submarine Forces, based in Norfolk.

The panelists talked about the importance of retaining military personnel within their branches at a time of possible big budgetary changes which could impact troop compensation.

'We need to be careful about changing the current programs in ways that might make it more desirable to leave the service between the 10 and 20 year point,' said Col. Allen. 'I think we need to be careful that we don't incentivize too many to leave, for the long term affect on the force.'

Vice Admiral Conner said it's important, whatever changes may come, that military men and women are taken care of. 'We need to recognize properly the sacrifices that these people have made in well over a decade of war and make the services continue to succeed with an all-volunteer force,' he said. 'If we do that carefully, I believe we can maximize the benefit we get from these people by keeping them in the service and making them feel valued for the valuable service they provide and yet not contribute to some cost growth that would affect the other parts of our mission.'

Commission chairman Alfonso Maldon, Jr. said the goal is to take care of personnel, yet do so responsibly within budget constraints.

'We want to ensure we can maintain an all volunteer force for the long term. We want to ensure that we can ensure a quality of life for our service members and their families, and finally we want to be sure we can bring fiscal sustainability to all of those programs,' he said.

Congress' National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 established the nine-member commission. On the panel are Alphonso Maldon, Jr. (Chairman), former Rep. Stephen Buyer R-Indiana), Rep. Chris Carney (D-PA), retired Army General Peter W. Chiarelli, retired Navy Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, Jr., Mr. Mike Higgins, Senator Bob Kerney, Senator Larry Pressler, and the Honorable Dov Zakheim, the former Under Secretary of Defense and Comptroller.

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