House panel boosts military pay raise

The House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee quickly approved its portion of the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill on Wednesday, including a 1.9 percent pay raise for the military.

The raise is a half-percent higher than the Obama administration requested, despite warnings by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that past congressional moves to augment military pay are "beginning to eat us alive."

Personnel Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Davis, D-Calif., said during the markup the higher pay raise backed by her panel will "further reduce the gap between military and private sector" pay.

Her markup also supports enlarging the Army temporarily by another 7,000 troops should it decide that more forces are needed. Last week, Army Chief of Staff George Casey said he expects to make a decision before the end of June.

The markup does not address the repeal of the 1993 "don't ask, don't tell" law that bars admitted gays from serving in the military. Davis said it was not clear whether the issue would come up during the full committee markup next week.

"I think we're a little bit in a wait-and-see mode here," she said. "I think we still have discussion that's ongoing."

Last month, Gates wrote House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., advising against legislating on the issue until the Pentagon finishes its yearlong review of how best to implement a repeal of the law. Skelton had asked for Gates' opinion on the issue.

Legislating on the issue now "sends a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such direct impact and consequence for them and their families," Gates said.

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