House panel set to approve 1.6 percent pay boost for military

A House Armed Services subcommittee says it will include a 1.6 percent pay raise for military members in its version of the 2012 Defense authorization bill.

The figure is the same as President Obama's request in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal. It's slightly more than the president's fiscal 2011 request of 1.4 percent, which Congress recently approved. The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel will mark up the legislation on Wednesday.

The two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers does not apply to service members. Under a 2004 law, military salaries must be increased annually at a rate equal to the change in the Employment Cost Index for private sector wages. From September 2009 to September 2010, the change in the ECI was 1.6 percent. The authorization bill also includes a provision that would prohibit for one year fee increases to TRICARE Prime, one of the options in the military's health plan.

In February, Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified before the House Armed Services Committee that Congress needs to support a proposal to rein in TRICARE health care costs, including increases in the monthly payments made by working-age retirees.

"The current TRICARE arrangement, one in which fees have not increased for 15 years, is simply not sustainable," Gates said at the time, noting that he recognized the "vigorous political opposition" lawmakers have had to previous efforts to increase TRICARE co-pays and other fees. The Pentagon's health care costs have grown from $19 billion in 2001 to $52.5 billion in the fiscal 2012 request.

Other provisions in the legislation would:

  • Increase the allowance for Marine Corps officers serving on active duty in grades of major, lieutenant colonel and colonel.
  • Establish and clarify the Army secretary's responsibilities to manage and oversee the Army National Military Cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery.
  • Create requirements for the management and measurement of dwell time, personnel tempo and operating tempo. Dwell time is the time service members spend at the home station after a deployment; personnel tempo is the time a service member is unable to spend in housing where he or she resides because of work duties; and operating tempo refers to the time units that are involved in operational and training requirements.
  • Provide legal counsel to service members who are victims of sexual assault.
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