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.”