Defense Combat Pay, Bonus Authority At Risk

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, talks with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, talks with the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The outlook for renewing combat pay and other special compensation for troops before the end of the year improved on Monday.

The leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services committees have agreed to pass identical bills authorizing fiscal 2014 funds for the Defense Department, in an effort to expedite the legislation and send it to President Obama before Jan. 1. If Congress does not approve a Defense authorization bill before the end of the month, the department’s authority to offer 37 different types of incentive pay and bonuses to current and prospective military members will expire on Dec. 31. If that happens, it would be the first time in 52 years that Congress failed to pass a Defense authorization bill before year’s end.

Troops will receive a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise in 2014, regardless of whether Congress manages to pass a bill before Dec. 31. The president’s recommendation, which is 1 percent, takes effect if Congress does not offer an alternative. Armed Services committee leaders have agreed on a 1 percent pay hike in the identical legislation they want to fast track through both chambers. The plan prohibits lawmakers from offering amendments.

While a basic pay raise is guaranteed at this point, other compensation, including combat pay and re-enlistment bonuses, are at risk if the House and Senate leadership fail to bring the legislation to a floor vote in time. The House adjourns for the year on Dec. 13, while the Senate leaves Washington on Dec. 20. The plan is for the House to vote this week on the bill, and the Senate to approve the legislation before it leaves town.

“By the way, when people say they want to wait until January, keep in mind that on Dec. 31 the services will no longer be authorized to pay hazardous pay to the troops serving in hostile-fire areas,” said Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., in floor remarks on Monday. “We start on Jan. 6, and we are going to be in the [continuing resolution] on Jan. 15,” Inhofe said, referring to the chamber’s schedule right after the holidays. “There is no way they are going to pay any attention to Defense authorization during that time period. There is not the time to do it.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined the department’s expiring authorities in a Dec. 9 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Affected compensation includes enlistment, re-enlistment and other special bonuses; combat pay; travel and transportation allowances; housing allowances; and premium pay.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., entered Dempsey’s letter into the record during floor remarks on Monday. Levin and Inhofe, who agreed to the bipartisan fast-track plan with their House counterparts, Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., acknowledged it wasn’t the ideal way to get such critical legislation completed, but the timing left them no choice.

“This is not the best way to proceed, but our troops and their families and our nation’s security deserve a defense bill, and this is the only practical way to get a defense bill done this year,” Levin said on Monday.

The bill would authorize $552.1 billion in spending for national defense in fiscal 2014, and an additional $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.