A survey by the Military Times revealed a drop in military members’ morale by more than 30 points while under the current commander-in-chief. The downswing coincides directly with the change in command from former President George W. Bush to present President Barack Obama.
The survey uncovered that morale had declined in almost every aspect of military life. Personnel feel underpaid, ill-equipped and under-appreciated with lower overall job satisfaction and a diminished respect for their superiors. Fewer members felt inclined to reenlist because of their perceived uncertainty of the future of the military.
The Washington Times reported that the survey showed that only 56 percent of military members said their quality of life is good or excellent. Seventy percent believed this would only continue to decline over time. In contrast, 91 percent rated their quality of life as good or excellent in 2009 when Bush’s military policies were mostly still in effect.
Service members are feeling the effects of budget cuts in their own wallets. Congress capped the military pay raise to 1 percent this year, in lieu of the 1.8 percent that would have kept their salaries in line with the average annual growth in the private sector. Special duty assignments, such as recruiters and drill sergeants, will no longer receive pay incentives.
In 2009, 87 percent of active personnel stated that their pay and allowances were good or excellent. Now the number only totaled 44 percent. Yet retention is up, as service members recognize jobs in the civilian world are hard to obtain.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said military leadership is keeping a watchful eye on morale.
“The reality is that every day I’m sure is not jolly,” he told the Military Times. “But morale is critically important for any of us, and any institution to do our jobs right. And we watch it. We are concerned all the time about it, but I think overall the morale of our men and women in uniform, our civilians, is high. I know there are different dimensions of that, depending on the force.”
But the numbers definitely differ from his opinion that overall morale is good. In addition to the other results mentioned, the survey also reported that troops are suffering from stress, burnout and a lack of purpose as the U.S. pulls troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University explained by saying, “For the civilian world, it might have been easier to psychologically move on and say, ‘Well, we are cutting our losses.’ But the military feels differently. Those losses have names and faces attached to them.”
The Military Times admits this survey is not a perfect representation of the military as a whole. However, in its opinion, it is representative of the more senior and career-oriented members of the military who carries out policies and keeps it running day-to-day.