Spiraling healthcare costs are posing a serious threat to the U.S. military's readiness, says Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen.
"In 2001, the cost of healthcare for the Department of Defense was $19 billion. That cost will rise to $65 billion in 2015. I can testify to the increase in co-pays," said Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
"We're trading off the size and capability [of our armed forces] for billions of healthcare."
In remarks Tuesday before a Washington, D.C., breakfast hosted by the Concerned Veterans of America, 65-year-old Mullen also said the federal budget sequestration was having a negative impact on military training.
While Mullen concedes "the silver lining of sequestration is that spending was reduced," he said of the automatic spending cut program: "I hated it. The green eyeshades started pulling back money for programs before anyone knew what [programs] they were."
Mullen said the budget cuts have had a very negative impact on retention.
"Where do you get it?" he asked, referring to the funding required to be cut from the military by the sequester. "You get it out of training. So that means that young junior officers who signed to fly or signed up to go to sea couldn't."
Mullen also reiterated comments he made three years ago — that the U.S national debt is America's greatest security threat.
The key to grappling with the $17.2 trillion national debt, Mullen said, is "the entitlement package. We have to figure out how to get at it.
"I would be happy to be means-tested for my healthcare. Those who can afford more will have to pay a bit more."
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act meaning more Americans will go on Medicaid, Newsmax asked, is Obamacare increasing the load on an entitlement and thereby making the debt worse?
"I'm going to stay out of Obamacare," Mullen said, pointing out that "we're just finding out what its impact is."
But he did warn that the skyrocketing cost of healthcare was "not sustainable."
Now semi-retired in Annapolis, Md. — where he is a registered independent — Mullen said "the debt still keeps me awake nights. But at least the people are better informed about it."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.