By Gina Harkins, Senior Staff Writer at MOAA
Members of Congress agreed on a deal that would give servicemembers a 2.4-percent pay bump in 2018 - up from the 2.1-percent raise proposed by the president.
Lawmakers released the National Defense Authorization Act plan for FY 2018 on Wednesday. The proposed $700 billion spending bill still requires approval in the House and Senate, but if it is passed it will mean more money in the pockets of rank-and-file servicemembers.
Lieutenant colonels and Navy or Coast Guard commanders with 16 to 17 years of service will take home an extra $2,400 next year under the new plan. O-3s who've served for four to five years will pocket an extra $130 each month on the plan, and E-5s with at least six years in uniform will earn an extra $822 next year.
“We face a wide array of threats around the globe and this bill provides the authorities and resources for our men and women of the armed forces to do the job we've asked them to do,” Rep. Rob Wittman, (R-Va.), chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said in a statement.
A 2.4-percent pay raise would mark the largest increase for troops since 2010. For years, servicemembers' pay increases have lagged behind those in the civilian sector. This raise would help close that gap in 2018.
Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), have pushed for higher military pay raises, citing a mandate that requires increases to match the Employment Cost Index unless the president cites economic concerns or a national emergency. President Donald Trump's proposed pay raise for servicemembers wasn't enough to match the private sector, they said.
“Our [military] personnel are our country's most valuable asset,” a House Armed Services Committee Majority summary of the conference report states. “The bill fully funds the 2.4 [percent] pay raise our troops are entitled to under law while blocking the president's ability to reduce troop pay.”
The spending plan also calls for an additional 20,300 troops in uniform: 16,600 on active duty and another 3,700 in the Reserve component.
The Army would get the biggest increase with 8,500 more soldiers. The Air Force would be next in line, with 5,800 personnel. The Navy would get 5,000 more sailors and the Marine Corps 1,000 more leathernecks.
The increases are necessary, lawmakers said in the release, as the world becomes a more dangerous place.
“America's military leaders continue to warn that our personnel and their equipment are stretched thin after years of war, billions in budget cuts, downsizing, and continued funding uncertainty,” the release states. “To help alleviate the stress on the force, the NDAA authorizes increases to the size of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army Guard and Reserve, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard commensurate with the threats we face.”
The plan also includes nearly $66 billion for overseas contingency operations as troops continue deploying to places like the Middle East, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Congress has until December to come up with a deal to fund its $700 billion defense proposal, or it might have to delay its spending plans again, Stars and Stripes reported.