Another Lie Gets Circulated on the Internet
January 22, 2003
How many times will I have to do this? People: Check your facts before you hit the send button:
I've received no less than two dozen of the message below:
Subject: Fw: FW: Do You Agree
Date: Mon, 20 Jan 2003 07:54:26 -0800
From: "woody woods" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Do You Agree
Military pay article
On 12 Nov, Ms Cindy Williams (from Laverne and Shirley TV show) wrote a piece for the Washington Times, denouncing the pay raise(s) coming service members' way this year -- citing that the stated 13% wage was more than they deserve. A young airman from Hill AFB responds to her article below. He ought to get a bonus for this!
I just had the pleasure of reading your column, "Our GIs earn enough" and I am a bit confused. Frankly, I'm wondering where this vaunted overpayment is going, because as far as I can tell, it disappears every month between DFAS (The Defense Finance and Accounting Service) and my bank account. Checking my latest leave and earnings statement (LES), I see that I make $1,117.80
before taxes. After taxes, I take home $874.20. When I run that through Windows' Calculator, I come up with an annual salary of $13,413.60 before taxes, and $10,490.40 after.
I work in the Air Force Network Control Center (AFNCC), where I am part of the team responsible for the administration of a 5,000-host computer network I am involved with infrastructure segments, specifically with Cisco Systems equipment. A quick check under jobs for Network Technicians in the Washington, D.C. area reveals a position in my career field, requiring three years experience with my job. Amazingly, this job does NOT pay $13,413.60 a year, nor does it pay less than this. No, this job is being offered at $70,000 to $80,000 per annum. I'm sure you can draw the obvious conclusions.
Also, you tout increases to Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence (housing and food allowances, respectively) as being a further boon to an already overcompensated force. Again, I'm curious as to where this money has gone, as BAH and BAS were both slashed 15% in the Hill AFB area effective in January 00.
Given the tenor of your column, I would assume that you have NEVER had the pleasure of serving your country in her armed forces. Before you take it upon yourself to once more castigate congressional and DOD leadership for attempting to get the families in the military's lowest pay brackets off AFDC, WIC, and food stamps, I suggest that you join a group of deploying soldiers headed for AFGHANISTAN, I leave the choice of service branch up to you.
Whatever choice you make, though, opt for the SIX month rotation: it
will guarantee you the longest possible time away from your family and friends, thus giving you full "deployment experience." As your group prepares to board the plane, make sure to note the spouses and children who are saying good-bye to their loved ones. Also take care to note that several families are still unsure of how they'll be able to make ends meet while the primary breadwinner is gone -- obviously they've been squandering the vast piles of cash the DOD has been giving them.
Try to deploy over a major holiday; Christmas and Thanksgiving are perennial favorites. And when you're actually over there, sitting in a DFP (Defensive Fire Position, the modern-day foxhole), shivering against the cold desert night; and the flight sergeant tells you that there aren't enough people on shift to relieve you for chow, remember this: trade whatever MRE (meal-ready-to-eat) you manage to get for the tuna noodle casserole or cheese tortellini, and add Tabasco to everything. This gives some flavor.
Talk to your loved ones as often as you are permitted; it won't nearly be long enough or often enough, but take what you can get and be thankful for it. You may have picked up on the fact that I disagree with most of the points you present in your op-ed piece.
But, tomorrow from KABUL, I will defend to the death your right to say it. You see, I am an American fighting man, a guarantor of your First Amendment rights and every other right you cherish. On a daily basis, my brother and sister soldiers worldwide ensure that you and people like you can thumb your collective nose at us, all on a salary that is nothing short of pitiful and under conditions that would make most people cringe. We hemorrhage our best and brightest into the private sector because we can't offer the stability and pay of civilian companies. And you, Ms Williams, have the gall to say that we make more than we deserve? Rubbish!
A1C Michael Bragg, Hill AFB
IF YOU AGREE, PLEASE PASS THIS ALONG TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE AND SHOW OUR SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN FIGHTING MEN AND WOMEN. THANK YOU. THIS LETTER SHOULD BE APPLAUDED BY ANYONE WHO'S EVER SERVED OR HAD A FAMILY MEMBER SERVE IN THE ARMED FORCES! THIS YOUNG MAN DESERVES A MEDAL!
* * *
While I am a staunch supporter of our freedom fighters and have written many pieces over the years about how they are short changed as far as pay, this is just another example of people circulating unverified material. This continued lack of integrity on the part of those who pass along anything and everything hurts the very essence of truth.
The Cindy Williams referred to in this "pass along to everyone," is in fact a Cindy Williams whose bio reads:
Senior Fellow of the Security Studies Program at MIT. Before that she was Assistant Director for National Security at the Congressional Budget Office, where she headed up the National Security Division in studies of budgetary and policy choices related to defense and international security. Dr. Williams has served as a director and in other capacities at the MITRE Corporation in Bedford, Massachusetts; as a member of the Senior Executive Service in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon; and at Rand in Santa Monica, California. Her areas of specialization include the national security budget, command and control of military forces, conventional air and ground forces, and nuclear weapons. Dr. Williams holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California, Irvine. She has published in the areas of command and control and the defense budget.
The original sender of this falsehood made the claim that this response appeared in the Washington Times. In fact, it was published in the Washington Post, not the Times.
Indeed, our freedom fighter did write the above letter, but it was in response to the article written by a woman with the same name as the actress, Cindy Williams.
While I am no fan of Cindy Williams and have never watched a single minute of Laverne & Shirley, this mix-up, "passed along to everyone you know," has brought her not only hate mail, but death threats as well. Blindsided and Ms. Williams (the actress) is still trying to stop this lie attributed to her circulating the globe.
Because someone didn't check the source of this material and verify who did, wrote or said what, people have been harmed by this irresponsible practice of forwarding anything that comes into people's e-mail box. Again, I say: Is it any wonder this movement has little to no credibility?
Here is the original article by the "other" Cindy Williams:
Our GIs Earn Enough
The Washington Post, January 12, 2000; Page A19
This month every member of the U.S. military is getting a 4.8 percent pay raise, the biggest inflation boost the military has seen in 18 years. The ink on the paychecks is not yet dry, but already some politicians and lobbyists are clamoring for bigger raises in future years. Just this week the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported that most military people feel they are not paid fairly.
Proponents of additional hefty raises argue that even after this month's raise, the military suffers a 13 percent "pay gap" relative to the private sector. But in fact there is no pay gap worthy of the name; our armed forces are already paid very well compared with the rest of America. It makes no sense to pour money into outsized pay raises. The 25 percent pay hike that some proponents are backing would cost taxpayers more than $12 billion a year.
The "gap" of 13 percent does not measure the relative levels of military and civilian pay. Rather, it is supposed to reflect the differences between military and private sector raises since 1982. The calculation is set up to make the differences seem as large as possible. For example, it includes the growth in what the military calls "basic pay" but not the growth in allowances for food and housing. And it compares the military and civilian raises over separate time periods. Just correcting for those two problems cuts the result in half.
Comparing raises and calling it a pay gap makes no sense anyway. If you get a 5 percent raise this year and your neighbor gets 10 percent, it hardly means your pay has fallen behind your neighbor's: If you earned twice as much as your neighbor to start with, you still earn more than he does. Wage data show that our troops typically earn more money than 75 percent of civilians with similar levels of education and experience.
For example, after four months in the Army, an 18-year-old private earns about $21,000 a year in pay and allowances. In addition, he or she gets a tax advantage worth about $800, because some of the allowances are not taxed. That's not bad for a person entering the work force with a high school diploma. By way of comparison, an automotive mechanic starting out with a diploma from a strong vocational high school might earn $14,000 a year. A broadcast technician or communications equipment mechanic might earn $20,000 to start but typically needs a year or two of technical college.
At the higher end of enlisted service, a master sergeant with 20 years in the Marine Corps typically earns more than $50,000 a year--better than a senior municipal firefighter or a police officer in a supervisory position, and comparable to a chief engineer in a medium-sized broadcast market. Among the officers, a 22-year-old fresh out of college earns about $34,000 a year as an ensign in the Navy--about the same as the average starting pay of an accountant, mathematician or a geologist with a bachelor's degree. A colonel with 26 years makes more than $108,000.
In addition to these basic salaries, there are cash bonuses for officers and enlisted personnel with special skills. There are also fringe benefits: four weeks of paid vacation, comprehensive health care, discount groceries, tuition assistance during military service and as much as $50,000 for college afterward. Enlistment and reenlistment bonuses can run to $20,000 and more.
Advocates of additional big raises maintain that military people should be paid more because they are more highly qualified--they exceed national averages in verbal and math skills and percentage of high school graduations. But while these
facts may help explain why the majority of our soldiers already earn more money than 75 percent of Americans, they don't explain why their future raises should exceed civilian wage growth by a large amount.
Some advocates contend that we need a large boost in military pay because the services are finding it difficult to attract and keep the people they need. But recruiting can be improved much less expensively by pumping up advertising, adding recruiters and better focusing their efforts and expanding enlistment bonuses and college programs. Pay is not necessarily the most important factor in a person's decision to stay in or leave the military. We might get better results by reducing the frequency of deployments, relaxing antiquated rules and improving working conditions.
Proponents of higher pay also note that military people put up with hardships such as long hours and family separations. Yet many civilian occupations make similar demands, and firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel, like many in the military, risk their lives on the job.
The report that CSIS released this week points to problems of morale and dissatisfaction across the military. But those problems are not all about pay. According to CSIS, they reflect concerns about training and leadership, the demands of frequent overseas deployments and unmet expectations for a challenging and satisfying military lifestyle. Higher pay will not fix these problems.
The writer, a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was assistant director for national security in the Congressional Budget Office from 1994 to 1997.