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House panel backs 2.7 percent military pay raise

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A House subcommittee on Wednesday approved legislation calling for a 2.7 percent across-the-board military pay raise next year, upping the ante on President Bush, who has backed a 2.2 percent boost for both military service members and civilian federal employees.

The inclusion of the higher figure in the version of the fiscal 2007 Defense authorization bill (H.R. 5122) passed by the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee already has prompted calls to give all federal employees a more generous pay hike.

"A larger increase for military families clearly is in order," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "So too, however, is a larger increase for the men and women of the government's civilian workforce."

Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., chairman of the military personnel subcommittee, included the 2.7 percent figure in the version of the authorization bill he presented to his subcommittee for consideration Wednesday, meaning it was not subject to a separate vote.

Bush's proposal in his fiscal 2007 budget request for identical military-civilian raises left proponents of pay parity little room to bargain for a higher raise. In recent years, the president has proposed lower annual raises for white-collar civilian employees than for their military counterparts, touching off congressional calls to bump up the civilian figure to the military level.

The 2.2 percent 2007 raise proposed by Bush would be equal to the change in the Labor Department's Employment Cost Index. But in an opening statement at Wednesday's markup, McHugh noted that the final military pay raise often exceeds the ECI. If the 2.7 percent hike is adopted, this would be the eighth consecutive year that the military boost has exceeded that index, he said.

The higher raise would narrow the gap between military and private sector pay from 4.5 percent to 4 percent, McHugh said. The version of the bill considered by the subcommittee included $300 million to pay for the increased basic pay, as well as $263 million for an additional pay raise for warrant officers and midgrade and senior enlisted members that would take effect next April.

"When taken together with the across-the-board raise, these targeted raises will enhance retention efforts directed at experienced and highly skilled noncommissioned officers and warrant officers," McHugh said.

 

Amelia Gruber covered management and contracting for Government Executive for three years before becoming an editor. She also has worked as an editor at Roll Call newspaper and as a research assistant at the Urban Institute. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Carleton College, with a major in economics, and a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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