We can’t afford this kind of program. The government would never do it, it would cost too much.
I had the opportunity to work in the Pentagon for two years. Through that experience, I learned the primacy of the almighty dollar. There are hundreds of great “ideas” in DC, but without money, they are just that – ideas. Every conversation that starts about national security, general welfare, infrastructure, or domestic tranquility always ends in a discussion about funding. Separation of powers doesn’t impede the reach of the government – money does. Therefore, when offering a program like the Reverse Boot Camp, I knew we would need to consider the economics of such a program. So I did, and what I discovered was astounding.
The Estimated Veteran Incremental Liability
The United States has an outstanding military because of the exceptional quality of young men and women who volunteer for service. Consequently, Veterans should represent the very best citizens and leaders in our communities after their departure from service. The military experience should be one of growth. Instead of becoming an asset, Figure 1 reveals how our Veteran community has become a liability to our nation.
The Estimate of Veteran Incremental Liability (EVIL) represents the incremental burden from Veterans on our nation. The estimate of more than $50 billion represents a cost attributed specifically to the Veteran, and it is limited to the issues of suicide, mental health support, substance abuse, and dissolution of the family. This figure represents the investment made to allow the Veteran community to decay – a process that too often ends in suicide.
How does this happen? How does our greatest national asset – the Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, or Marine – become such a liability on our social structure? To answer that question, we took a look at the military to civilian transition process.
What Transition Process?
The difference in funding for transition programs compared to recruiting and entry training is disproportional to the point of neglect. During the peak of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the DoD spent approximately $7.7 billion in recruiting and retention in a single year. For new officers and enlistees, the cost of initial and specialty training could exceed several hundred thousand dollars depending on the particular operating specialty. Clearly, the DoD makes a tremendous investment to attract and mold new service members to succeed in the most professional military in the world.
The lack of a similar investment for a service member’s transition back into society exposes a critical vulnerability across the entire military lifecycle. For FY 2017, the DoD requested $1.5 billion for “Warfighter and Family Services,” a program that shares transition funding with four other programs. Even if all of the $1.5 billion directly supported the transition of 250,000 service members, the DoD would still spend a minimum of 12 times more on inducting civilians into military service than it does on preparing these warriors to rejoin civilian society. The lack of investment for a comprehensive program of transition defers the cost to our families and communities across our nation.
The Cost of Veteran Decay
The bottom line is this: Transition is done on the cheap – from the perspective of the military. The cost of transforming to discover a new life remains the same. Under the current program of transition, that burden is simply deferred onto our Veterans and their Families. So when we talk about cost, let’s be clear that the economic impact right now is costing us money. We are paying for the decay of our Veterans. With the Reverse Boot Camp, we can – at a much lower price point than $50 Billion – transform that liability into an asset. The men and women with the leadership, character, and competencies who swore to protect our nation can enter a post-military life with the very best opportunity to contribute, improve, and lead their communities.
Given the economics of the Veteran decay, we must implement a Reverse Boot Camp . . . how can we afford not to?
This is Part 2 of a 5 Part Series entitled “Why We Need a Reverse Boot Camp”. Tomorrow’s post will describe the national security reasons why we need the Reverse Boot Camp Program. The Reverse Boot Camp is an initiative sponsored by non-profit organizations across the United States designed to better prepare our service men and women for a healthy, empowered life after military service.