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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Just do it

DoD has implemented the enrollment fee changes for TRICARE Prime it proposed in its FY12 budget request. On multiple occasions, the House and Senate have mandated that enrollment fees remain constant despite Pentagon requests for increases to account for inflation and the program’s rising costs. But, under DoD’s own authority, monthly enrollment fees increased slightly on October 1st: $2.50 for individuals and $5.00 for families.

It makes one wonder – If DoD had this authority all along, why didn’t they use it sooner?

National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) for the past several years have explicitly prohibited enrollment fee increases. But this ban was applied on a year-by year basis, and DOD’s authority was restored when the limitation expired with the end of FY2011. (See section 701 of the FY11 NDAA.)

So what happens when the FY2012 NDAA gets enacted? At the moment, neither chamber aims to extend the previous limitation on DoD. Instead, both the House and the Senate allow for this adjustment to enrollment fees and, beginning October 1, 2012, will peg the annual fee increase to military retirement pay.

Secretary Gates suggested that TRICARE Prime fees should be indexed over the long-term to medical inflation rates. The Pentagon stands to get something considerably less than that – but more than it has in recent years – if these draft NDAA positions stand.