House Panel Clears 1.8 Percent Pay Raise for Troops
Increase is higher than Senate and White House-backed plans.
A House panel on Tuesday approved a $491 billion Defense spending bill for 2015, which includes a 1.8 percent pay increase for service members.
The legislation, supported unanimously by the House Appropriations Committee, features $128.1 billion for military pay and personnel. The personnel funding level is $669 million below the level enacted in fiscal year 2014 and $830 million below President Obama’s request, “but is sufficient to meet all needs due to reductions in force structure and large unexpended balances,” according to a committee summary of the bill.
The 1.8 percent pay increase is in line with the House-passed Defense authorization bill. It is more than President Obama’s proposed 1 percent pay raise for military personnel in 2015, and the 1 percent boost currently in the Senate Defense authorization legislation.
Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Defense subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., noted the difference between their pay plan and Obama’s, with Frelinghuysen saying of the 1.8 percent level: “They deserve it and their families need it.”
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. But under the law (Title 37, Chapter 19, Section 1009) the president has the authority to set an alternate pay raise for military personnel, citing a national emergency or fiscal concerns, if Congress doesn’t pass legislation adjusting the amount or canceling it. The 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act allows the president through executive order to set a pay raise for federal civilian employees under the same circumstances.
The House spending bill also would restore $100 million to the Defense Commissary Agency to provide reduced-price food and household goods for service members and their families. President Obama has proposed significant cuts to commissaries, the heavily-subsidized stores on military installations where service members and their families buy food and other goods, but House lawmakers so far have rejected those reductions.
In addition, the committee approved an amendment that would prohibit funding to implement controversial new hair and grooming regulations ordered by the Pentagon.
The Defense legislation is likely to be one of the few standalone appropriations bills Congress passes before October, when the 2015 fiscal year begins.