House Backs a Bigger Pay Raise for Troops Than the Senate

Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith / Defense Department file photo

Military personnel would receive a 2.1 percent pay raise next year under a major bill the House passed on Wednesday.

Lawmakers approved the massive fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the salary boost. The 2.1 percent bump is 0.5 percentage points higher than the 1.6 percent raise President Obama recommended for the military and civilians in his fiscal 2017 budget.

The 2.1 percent figure is in line with the anticipated 2017 cost-of-living adjustment for service members. (The formula for determining service members’ annual pay increase is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Cost Index and the growth in private-sector wages.) The Senate Armed Services Committee, however, approved a 1.6 percent raise, in keeping with Obama’s request.

A 1.6 percent pay raise could save the Defense Department more than $300 million in fiscal 2017, officials have said.

“This bipartisan bill supports the men and women who volunteer to put their lives on the line in defense of our country, while preserving and protecting the national security of the United States of America in a very dangerous world,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. “It does these things by beginning to correct shortfalls in our military readiness, reversing troop cuts, increasing investments in training and maintenance programs, and rebuilding crumbling facilities.”

The fiscal 2017 Defense authorization bill also would create a new TRICARE enrollment fee for active-duty service members who join the military after Jan. 1, 2018 (active-duty personnel currently don’t pay TRICARE enrollment fees). However, lawmakers rejected an administration proposal requiring new TRICARE-for-Life beneficiaries to pay an annual enrollment fee. Those currently enrolled in that plan don’t pay annual enrollment fees, but do pay Medicare Part B monthly premiums.

The bill also included a provision that would repeal cuts to per diems for service members and Defense civilian employees on long-term government travel. Those cuts, which the Pentagon implemented on Nov. 1, 2014, reduced the reimbursement rates by 25 percent for long-term TDY of 31 to 180 days, and by 45 percent for travel exceeding 180 days.

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