WASHINGTON, June 11, 2008 – The Pentagon is open to supporting a revamped GI Bill for servicemembers if it would enable the transfer of unused benefits to family members and wouldn’t cause an exodus of troops from the military, a senior Defense Department official said here today. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has had discussions with legislative leaders on Capitol Hill about a proposed new GI Bill that would boost benefits for servicemembers, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

“We believe that any additional benefit [should] include the ability for servicemembers to transfer any unused portion of that benefit to family members,” Morrell said.

Gates knows from myriad conversations with troops and spouses that enabling the transfer of unused GI Bill benefits is a top concern, Morrell noted.

“That is the biggest thing they are interested in,” Morrell observed.

Accordingly, Gates is committed to communicate to Congress that any changes to the current GI Bill should include the transferability of benefits, Morrell said.

The Defense Department wants its servicemembers to get the best education benefits possible, Morrell emphasized. However, proposals that provide increased GI Bill benefits to troops with only a few years of service might cause them to exit the military in droves after completing their initial term of duty, Morrell pointed out.

“Whatever we do, we don’t want to incentivize people to prematurely leave the military,” Morrell said. “No one in this building is against an enhanced benefit for our troops.”

In fact, Secretary Gates, a former Air Force officer, obtained his doctorate degree through the GI Bill, Morrell pointed out.

However, the Defense Department doesn’t want to create a situation whereby troops with three years of military service “walk out the door because this benefit is so enticing,” Morrell said.

For this reason, the Defense Department is an advocate “of upping the benefit the longer that you stay” in the military, Morrell said.

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