A couple of weeks ago, John McCain talked about the importance of increasing the size of the U.S. military. To entice more volunteers, he said, the government should focus on incentives: “[O]ne of the things we ought to do is provide [the troops with] significant educational benefits in return for serving.”
A few days later, McCain announced that he opposes a bipartisan measure to renew and expand the GI Bill for a new generation of veterans. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), the leading proponent of the modernized GI Bill, called McCain out.
McCain’s argument is that if the government makes college more affordable for the troops, they might be inclined to leave the military, rather than re-enlist. Webb, who said McCain is “full of it,” has argued that a) the troops deserve better educational benefits; and b) it might help with military recruiting if people knew they could go to college after their service.
Who’s right? Faiz at TP reports on the latest Congressional Budget Office analysis, which sets the record straight.
While the report explains that troop retention will decline because some troops will take advantage of their new education benefits, the loss in retention will be entirely made up for by increased military recruits:
“Literature on the effects of educational benefits on retention suggest that every $10,000 increase in educational benefits yields a reduction in retention of slightly more than 1 percentage point. CBO estimates that S. 22 (as modified) would more than double the present value of educational benefits for servicemembers at the first reenlistment point — from about $40,000 to over $90,000 — implying a 16 percent decline in the reenlistment rate, from about 42 percent to about 36 percent. […]
“Educational benefits have been shown to raise the number of military recruits. Based on an analysis of the existing literature, CBO estimates that a 10 percent increase in educational benefits would result in an increase of about 1 percent in high-quality recruits. On that basis, CBO calculates that raising the educational benefits as proposed in S. 22 would result in a 16 percent increase in recruits.”
Yep, McCain really is full of it.