President Barack Obama informed Congress Friday that he’ll follow through with plans to cap military pay raises at 1.3 percent next year, as part of an effort to keep down mounting defense spending.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, Obama called the move unfortunate but necessary.
"As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare … we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course," he wrote. "This effort requires tough choices, especially in light of budget constraints."
The president noted that administration officials do not believe the lower-than-inflation pay raise will hurt the military's ability to recruit and retain servicemembers.
If it stands, the 1.3 percent raise will be the third consecutive year of increases that fall short of estimated private-sector wage growth, and widen the gap between military and civilian salaries to around 5 percent by some estimates.
Congress has not yet weighed in on whether or not to override the president’s pay plan. House lawmakers have voted for budget plans that would provide a 2.3 percent pay raise for troops -- keeping in line with private-sector hikes -- but Senate proposals so far have backed the lower, 1.3 percent plan.
For an E-4 with three years of service, the difference between the two potential pay raises would total about $268 a year. For an O-4 with 12 years, it would be about $838.
Pentagon leaders have noted that troops will see a pay raise under either plan, and insist the smaller increase is needed to help keep modernization and training accounts solvent. The higher 2.3 -percent raise will cost about $4 billion more over the next five years than the Pentagon wants to spend.
A 1.3 percent raise would follow in the wake of 1 percent raises in both 2014 and 2015, the lowest annual military pay increases in the all-volunteer era that began in 1973.
Obama also informed Congress of plans to give federal workers a 1 -percent across-the-board pay raise next January, and locality pay adjustments that could raise that number to 1.3 percent.