Highlights of the $717 Billion Defense Bill, Including 2.6% Troop Pay Raise
Contributed by Debbie Gregory
During the signing at Fort Drum, the president invited members of the 10th Mountain’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team to gather round him for a photo opportunity.
Like most prior NDAAs, this year’s authorization is the product of a relatively bipartisan legislative process and received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
The 2.6 percent pay increase would be the biggest for the military in nine years. Estimates are that the pay raise will translate into about $670 more annually for junior enlisted troops and about $1,300 more for senior enlisted and junior officers.
It also funds new purchases of aircraft, ships and weapons. And it increases the size of our service branches: the Army’s end strength will grow by about 4,000, the Navy’s by 7,500, the Air Force by 4,000, and the Marine Corps by about 100. It also increases funding for training and readiness.
The NDAA also requires the DoD to carry out an annual education campaign to inform those who may be eligible to enroll in the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. And it requires a study on the feasibility of phasing out the use of open burn pits.
Other allowances include:
- $7.6B for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
- $85M for UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters.
- Funds the U.S. Air Force’s new long-range stealth B-21 bomber.
- Funds 13 new Navy ships to include $1.56B for three littoral combat ships, the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, six icebreakers, and a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.
- $225.3M for Stryker A1 combat vehicles and supports efforts to modernize the Army’s armored combat vehicles.
- Additional assistance to military spouses seeking employment by enhancing the My Career Advancement program.
- Improvements to the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to provide training tailored to servicemembers’ post-separation plans.
- Resources for victims of military sexual trauma as part of pre-separation counseling.
- Providing active duty and reserve personnel an “authoritative assessment of their earned GI Bill benefits” prior to separation, retirement, or release from active duty or demobilization.