Congress, DoD Lock Horns in Battle Over Your Next Pay Raise

The Obama Administration would like to cap your base pay increase at 1 percent next year. That’s the pay increase the Secretary of Defense has proposed for fiscal year 2014 – the smallest military pay increase in half a century.

‘That’s not high enough,’ say members of the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee on Personnel. The committee voted to advance a proposal from Representative Joe Wilson (R – North Carolina) calling for a minimum 1.8 percent pay raise for troops across the board.

Troops received a base pay increase of 1.7 percent for 2013, effective January 1. But the increase was not enough to offset the 2 percentage point increase in Social Security tax withholding – resulting in a net loss to base pay for any servicemember who did not get promoted or get a pay increase based on time in service this year.

Some active duty troops came out ahead with adjustments to BAH, or basic allowance for housing, depending on rank and location. Reserve component troops don’t normally qualify for housing allowances, though, so Guardsmen and Reservists actually had to make do with a net pay cut, on an after-tax basis, for 2013.

Currently, the law links military pay increases to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index. This would call for the same 1.8 percent increase that Wilson and Congressional Republicans are calling for.

The Administration is trying to cut spending in order to bring budgets in line with sequestration provisions. They estimate that holding the pay increase to 1 percent rather than 1.8 percent will save $540 million. They are also trying to increase TRICARE fees, which would reduce net federal outlays by $1 billion – at the expense of the troops. The Congressional subcommittee also firmly rejected this idea.

Some Democrats point out that they have been pushed into a corner by irresponsible Congressional appropriations and earmarks on unwanted or outdated weapons systems. For example, Congress has mandated more spending on weapons systems the military does not even want, over $400 million in more M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks – even though the last tanks have left Europe and the Army is down to just one armored division and one cavalry division.

These tanks are manufactured in Lima, Ohio – by union employees, and in the districts of two key Republicans, Senator Rob Portman and Jim Jordan – as well as Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Cancelling the project would clear the decks of most of the 1.8 percent pay increase that servicemembers would normally expect by law. But that would mean the loss of thousands of factory jobs concentrated in this one key district. The plant is operated by General Dynamics, which spent $11 million on lobbying last year according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Leave a comment