Congress created the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission in 2012 to conduct a sweeping review of military pay and benefits with an eye to ensuring sustainability of U.S. forces and preserving a robust quality of life for service members and their families.

The commission members were chosen by Congress and President Obama for their expertise and experience in federal and military compensation and retirement, private-sector benefits, active-duty and reserve component experience or family member familiarity, Veterans Affairs expertise and actuarial science.

They are:

Alphonso Maldon Jr.

is the commission's chairman and sole presidential appointee. He's a retired Army colonel who served as an artillery officer and Adjutant General Corps officer over his 20-year career. His final assignment was as deputy director for the Army Office of Legislative Affairs in the House in 1993. After leaving service, he worked for the White House as deputy assistant to the president for legislative affairs and White House congressional liaison to the Senate and House. As a civilian, he developed extensive experience in the financial sector and is part owner of the Washington Nationals.

Larry Pressler was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Senate, Pressler served in Congress from 1975 to 1997, first representing South Dakota as a Republican in the House before his election to the Senate. He chaired the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee and was a member of the Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council for the Campaign to Fix the Debt, also known as the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction effort. During two combat tours as an officer in Vietnam, he earned a Bronze Star. He ran for Senate while serving on the compensation commission, losing as an independent in 2014 to Republican Mike Rounds.

Stephen Buyer represented Indiana in the House for nearly 20 years, from 1993 to 2011, serving on both the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, which he chaired from 2005 to 2007, and the House Armed Services Committee, where he led the personnel subcommittee from 1997 to 2000. He was instrumental in creating Tricare For Life and writing legislation to redesign the military pharmacy system. A retired Army Reserve colonel, he served four years on active duty and deployed as an operational law judge advocate to the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Dov Zakheim is a former Defense Department comptroller and chief financial officer, with extensive experience in military budget and fiscal issues, having drafted and steered the DoD budget for nearly four years. Zackheim served as the department's coordinator for civilian programs in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004 and previously held numerous DoD positions related to planning and resources. An economist by schooling, he holds a doctorate in economics and politics from Oxford University.

Michael Higgins

Photo Credit: Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission

MIchael Higgins is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served as a staff member for the House Armed Services Committee for 23 years. He worked as a senior policy director on military personnel policy and law, advising congressional leaders on personnel issues including force structure, recruiting, retention and pay, benefits, policy, and morale and welfare. He also has expertise in DoD schools and base operations. Higgins served as a personnel officer in the Air Force from 1970 to 1990.

Retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli

Photo Credit: Rob Curtis/Staff

Peter Chiarelli is a former four-star general who retired in 2012 after nearly 40 years in uniform, finishing his career as Army vice chief of staff. As an armor officer, Chiarelli commanded every level of troops, from platoon to division, and the Multi-National Corps Iraq. In retirement, Chiarelli continues to advocate for combat veterans, spearheading efforts to improve research on brain injury, post-traumatic stress and other conditions related to military service.

Retired Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. (

Photo Credit: Rob Curtis/Staff

Edmund Giambastiani is a former four-star admiral known in defense circles for his brilliant strategic mind. He retired in in 2007 after serving as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, where he ran several advisory councils, including the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and the Defense Acquisition Board. As a senior staff adviser, he oversaw development and implementation of the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. A submariner by training, he led Joint Forces Command as a flag officer.

Bob Kerrey

Photo Credit: Rob Curtis/Staff

Bob Kerrey is a Medal of Honor recipient and former Democratic senator from Nebraska from 1989 to 2001, serving on Appropriations, Finance and Agriculture committees as well as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. After leaving the Senate, he served on the 9/11 commission tasked with analyzing the buildup and response to the terrorist attacks on the United States. Kerrey enlisted in the Navy in 1966 and attended Officer's Candidate School and special operations/special warfare training. Leading a SEAL team in Vietnam, Kerrey earned the Medal of Honor for actions in March 1969, when his unit attacked a fortified enemy position and came under fire. Despite receiving massive injuries that eventually led to the loss of his lower right leg, Kerrey was able to call in fire support and continued leading the team.

Christopher Carney

Photo Credit: Charles Dharapak/AP

Christopher Carney is a commander in the Navy Reserve who has experience as a service member, civilian Defense Department employee and U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2011. An intelligence officer, he is a combat mission commander for unmanned aerial vehicle platforms. Before running for Congress in 2006, he worked at the Pentagon on strategic analysis of the global terrorist threat. While in Congress, Carney, a Democrat, served on the Homeland Security Committee, and chaired that committee's management, investigations and and oversight panel.

Patricia Kime is a senior writer covering military and veterans health care, medicine and personnel issues.

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