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Military Looking at 1.6% Pay Increase for Troops in 2017

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By Debbie Gregory.

Five evolving challenges drive the Pentagon’s planning for the 2017 defense budget request, including Russian aggression in Europe, the rise of China in the Asia Pacific, North Korea, Iran, and the ongoing fight against terrorism, especially the Islamic.

The annual budget request the Pentagon sends to Congress will include a 1.6 percent pay raise for troops in 2017, aimed at reducing military personnel costs, according to defense officials.

The 1.6 percent pay raise will be half of the projected increase in private-sector wages, which is likely to be 3.2 percent.

If approved by Congress, the modest pay increase would mark the fourth consecutive year that military basic pay has not kept pace with the growth in most civilian wages,.

The budget request also includes efforts to ratchet up Tricare health care fees for military families.

Overall personnel costs have begun to decline, partly because of the continued troop drawdown. The current active-duty force is down about 7 percent, standing at 1.33 million, down from 1.43 million in 2011.

Defense officials say that reducing personnel costs is vital in order to ensure funding for high-tech research, weapons modernization and training.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said investments in new technologies include advanced navigation, swarming autonomous vehicles, self-driving networked boats, gun-based missile defense, and an arsenal plane that turns one of the department’s older planes into a flying launch pad for a range of conventional payloads.

Carter added that the Pentagon is investing to build the force of the future, highlighting opening all remaining combat positions to women and strengthening support to military families to improve their quality of life. Monies will also be spent on cyber training, tools and infrastructure, and in space to identify, attribute and negate all threatening actions.

“With so many commercial space endeavors, he added, “we want this domain to be just like the oceans and the Internet: free and safe for all.”

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.

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.

Mil Pay Raise:Good News, Bad News. Military Connection

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By Debbie Gregory.

There’s good news for military families who may have worried about potential paycheck problems due to the budget gridlock on Capitol Hill.

On Aug. 28, President Obama announced that he is moving forward with a plan to provide a pay raise for all service members, effective January 1st .

The bad news is that raise is only 1.3 percent.

President Obama’s cap of the 2016 military pay raise puts it at a level below the unstated preference of House members. Lawmakers could override the president’s order, but that would require negotiators to insert completely new pay language into the compromise bill. It is unikely that both houses of Congress will push the 2.3 percent raise per the Employment Cost Index figure otherwise mandated by Title 37 of the U.S. Code.

“As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare … we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course,” he wrote. “This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints.”

House lawmakers have expressed support for a 2.3 percent raise next year in some defense budget legislation, but decided against including that specific number in their version of the annual defense authorization bill. Senators went with the 1.3 percent mark in their draft version of that military policy legislation.

The two sides are negotiating a final compromise bill that they hope to pass in coming weeks, but are not likely at this point to force a 2.3 percent pay raise by dramatically changing the language in their respective draft bills.

House negotiators have indicated that they would be willing to allow modest increases in health care fees in the final draft of the bill. Senators also are pushing for trims in the annual growth of the Basic Allowance for Housing. Outside advocates have decried those moves as putting increased pressure on the personal finances of troops and their families, and widening the pay gap between service members and their civilian counterparts.

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.