With hundreds of senior military officers finally headed into new leadership roles, a pair of senators is pushing for those newly confirmed officials to receive back pay and time-in-grade credit for their months spent waiting for advancement.
The proposal from Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would require approval from both the House and the Senate and could cost in excess of $4 million, according to an analysis of the personnel involved by Military Times. Introduction of the Military Personnel Confirmation Restoration Act was first reported by Punchbowl News.
“The men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America should not be negatively impacted by political squabbles,” Rounds said in a statement accompanying the bill release.
The Senate confirmed 422 senior officers early this week after a nearly 10-month blockade of nominations by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., based on his objection to the Defense Department’s abortion access policy.
Tuberville said the move was needed to highlight the “illegal” nature of the policy, put in place by administration officials without congressional consultation. The policy allows troops to receive leave time and travel stipends if they are forced to cross state lines for abortion services because of local restrictions on the procedures.
The blockade snarled hundreds of personnel moves across the top levels of the Defense Department, in some cases blocking promotions and pay raises for individual officers for nearly 10 months. By the end of October, the lost pay for the officers involved reached nearly $700,000 a month.
With the confirmations now approved, Pentagon leaders said they are in the process of moving personnel into their new roles and finalizing promotions. That means most individuals involved will see their pay boosted later this month.
But the bill from Rounds and Manchin would award back pay to individuals based on the date their nomination was entered on the Senate’s executive calendar. They would also receive the same time credit for other benefits, such as retirement pay eligibility.
While the majority of officers affected by the holds have now been confirmed, Tuberville is still blocking quick consideration of 11 four-star nominees in protest of the abortion policy. In addition, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., has placed holds on six nominees — including Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider, who is included in Tuberville’s holds — relating to concerns about Defense Department diversity training programs.
Seven other Defense Department nominations are being held up for procedural reasons.
Whether Congress will act on the retroactive pay proposal before the end of the year is unclear. Both chambers are scheduled to start a holiday break by December 15 and not return until January.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.