Despite Veto, Military Pay Raises Secure

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By Debbie Gregory.

President Obama’s veto of the 2016 defense authorization bill will not sideline next year’s military pay raise.

Last week, Obama sent the $612 billion bill back to Congress, saying it “fails to authorize funding for our national defense in a fiscally responsible manner.

While the veto may jeopardize other compensations, it does not alter plans for a 1.3 percent raise for troops, effective January 1. It does not affect enlistment bonuses, hazard pays, and other specialty compensation for which authorization must be renewed each year.

Obama had pledged to set the military pay raise at 1.3 percent, which falls below expected civilian wage growth. Lawmakers chose to allow that target to stand unchallenged.

At issue was about $38 billion that Republican lawmakers added to the Pentagon’s overseas contingency fund in order to get around mandatory spending caps enacted by Congress for fiscal 2016. Republicans had argued that the issue was better settled in the separate appropriations process, not the authorization process.

The military retirement changes would replace the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing system for new enlistees with a 401(k)-style blended pension plan. Supporters have said the change would give the vast majority of troops some retirement payout upon leaving the service, while the current system benefits less than twenty percent of troops.

With a two-year budget deal in place, the heads of the House and Senate Armed Services committees see a relatively smooth path ahead for the recently-vetoed 2016 defense authorization bill. However, the pay raise certainty did not stop Republican lawmakers from making claims that Obama’s move would take money from servicemembers’ wallets.

“Let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security,” Obama said. “Let’s make sure that we’re able, in a constructive way, to reform our military spending to make it sustainable over the long term.”

The House’s reconsideration of the bill is set for November 5th.