Pay Raise in 2018 for the Troops

2018 pay raise

By Debbie Gregory.

House-Senate conferees have announced a deal on a massive defense bill, which will result in a pay raise of 2.4 percent for servicemembers. The $700 billion plan will also cover retention pay and bonuses, increasing troop size, repairs to the two Navy ships recently involved in deadly crashes, fund new ships and aircraft, and authorize new spending on missile defense.

The proposed pay raise would be the biggest increase for the military since 2010. The plan has already cleared several hurdles and now faces a vote before both chambers. After that comes the challenge of how to fund the plan.

Conferees rejected senators’ call to cut housing allowances for dual service couples with children. Under the Senate plan, one member no longer would have been eligible for Basic Allowance for Housing at the higher “with dependents” rate.

Married military members will both continue to receive BAH, with one spouse receiving the “without dependents” BAH rate, while the higher-ranking spouse receives the “with dependents” rate.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and leader of House Republican conferees, said all conferees had “the welfare of service members foremost in our minds. Some of that is pay and benefits but also, (considering) recent naval accidents and air accidents, it’s making sure they have equipment that works.”

Conferees did accept the Senate’s approval of a DoD plan to raise prescription drug fees, while encouraging greater use of generic drugs, on-base pharmacies and mail order pharmacy services. Survivors of members who die on active duty and retired disabled servicemembers would be exempt from the drug copay increases.
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Bill Allowing Mattis to Become Defense Secretary Approved by Congress


By Debbie Gregory.

Sometimes it takes an act of Congress. And that is exactly how the House and Senate paved the wave to permit retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to head the Pentagon for Donald Trump.

The measure overrides a prohibition against former U.S. service members who have been out of uniform for less than seven years from holding the top job at the Defense Department. Mattis retired from military service in 2013.

The vote was 268-151. Only 36 Democrats supported the bill after Trump’s transition team blocked Mattis from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday, despite the retired four-star general sailing through his Senate confirmation hearing earlier in the day.

The House vote came one day after the Senate easily passed the waiver, 81-17.

Mattis in line to be part of the first batch of President-elect Donald Trump’s picks to be confirmed by the Senate as early as Inauguration Day.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama would sign the bill, if it’s sent to him before he leaves office next Friday.

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) acknowledged “legitimate complaints” with the process and wording of the waiver, including the omission of Mattis by name.  But Thornberry argued lawmakers should push ahead with the waiver to ensure there’s no gap in Pentagon leadership when Trump takes office.

Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. His awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star (with Valor) and the Meritorious Service Medal.

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Provision Scales Back Federal Job Preferences for Veterans

Veterans McCainBy Debbie Gregory.

Congress has stepped into a sensitive issue that’s been quietly roiling the hiring system for federal jobs: the Obama administration’s push to give preference to veterans.

While former service members would still go to the head of the hiring line, a little-noticed provision of the new defense bill recently passed by the Senate would eliminate the preference veterans get once they are in the government and apply for another federal job.

Top defense officials pressed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for the change in order to ensure that qualified non-veterans are considered equally with veterans for specialized, hard-to-fill positions.

The provision would affect thousands of veterans, many of whom get a foot in the door with an entry-level position and then seek jobs at other agencies.

The provision has been fiercely opposed by leading service organizations, which had no idea until the legislation was on the floor that the Senate was moving to chip away at the government’s most visible effort to reward military service.

“Is Congress now starting to dial back the goodwill the country’s shown toward veterans’ employment?” asked Lauren Augustine, senior legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group. “Are we now going to set a bad example to the private sector by limiting veterans preference in government?”

In 2009, Obama boosted the extra hiring credits given to veterans to give them a greater edge in getting federal jobs.

But the down-side to the policy has been that qualified non-veterans are getting shut out of federal jobs in deference to those who served, but may not be as qualified.

In 2014, almost half of those hired in full-time, permanent federal jobs were veterans. The figures for 2015 have not yet been released.

A spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee said the committee has not taken a position on the issue.

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week that he does not think the Senate provision hurts veterans’ preference but instead “balances the goals of rewarding those who are eligible for a federal hiring advantage with the needs of the federal government and notably the Department of Defense to attract and hire the best talent for a variety of important national security jobs.”

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Will Women Soon Be Subject to the Draft?

draft women

By Debbie Gregory.

Rep. Duncan Hunter’s attempt to take a stand against women in combat backfired.

Hunter (R-CA), who is against integrating combat forces, proposed opening up the Selective Service to include women. “This is about a big war, meaning when you have tens of thousands of people dying — tens of thousands — that is when you have a draft,” he said. But he also vowed to vote against his own proposal.

Last December, the Defense Department decided to open all remaining gender-segregated combat jobs — about 225,000 — to female troops.

Selective Service law as it is currently written now refers specifically to “male persons” in stating who must register and who would be drafted. For women to be required to register with Selective Service, Congress would have to amend the law.

The proposal garnered enough support for female integration that members of the House Armed Services Committee voted in favor of opening the Selective Service and the draft.

The Selective Service measure is now part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. If passed by Congress, for the first time in our nation’s history, women aged 18-26 would be required to register for the draft,  and could be forced into combat.

The U.S. came close to drafting women during World War II, when there was a shortage of military nurses. However, there was a surge of volunteerism and a draft of women nurses was not needed.

“I actually support your amendment and will be delighted to vote for it,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). “If we want equality in this country, we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” she added.

Retired Navy SEAL Rep. Ryan Zinke, (R-MT) and Hunter have been trying to build opposition to female integration since they introduced the Draft America’s Daughters Act, a bill that is the same as the amendment.

But political momentum appears to be building behind integration and changes to the draft system.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.