You can start making plans for how you'll spend that 1.3 percent military pay hike in January — that number is unlikely to go any higher, and even less likely to drop.
That's a disappointment to advocates who had been were pushing for a larger paycheck boost to keep military salaries in line with increases in private-sector wages. But it's also good news for families worried about potential paycheck problems that could have arisen amid the continued budget gridlock on Capitol Hill.
On Aug. 28, President Obama informed Congress that he will order a 1.3 percent pay raise for all service members effective Jan. 1, as part of an effort to keep down mounting defense spending
"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."
For an E-4 with three years of service who's making roughly $28,000 this year, the White House's 1.3 percent plan means a boost of around $360 for 2016. An O-4 with 12 years of service, making almost $84,000 this year, will see $1,100 more under the raise plan.
Typically, the pay raise is set to match anticipated growth in private-sector salaries, expected to be 2.3 percent in 2016. But the law allows the president to set an alternative pay plan in cases of a national emergency or budgetary constraints, something Obama has done for three consecutive years.
Congress can override that, but such a move is unlikely this year.
House lawmakers have expressed support for a 2.3 percent raise next year in some defense budget legislation, but decided against including that specific number in their version of the annual defense authorization bill. Senators went with the 1.3 percent mark in their draft version of that military policy legislation.
The two sides are negotiating a final compromise bill that they hope to pass in coming weeks, but are not likely at this point to force a 2.3 percent pay raise by dramatically changing the language in their respective draft bills.
If it stands, the 1.3 percent raise will be the third consecutive year of military pay bumps that fall short of private-sector wage growth, and advocates predict it will widen the gap between military and civilian salaries to around 5 percent.
Retired Vice. Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, called the 1.3 percent raise "incredibly disappointing" given the burdens already facing military families.
"Our currently serving military and their families will now face the burden of three straight years of pay caps with four more planned," Ryan said. "The services are already struggling with reduced morale and the Army may not meet its recruiting goals this year. The administration and Congress are sending the wrong signal to our troops."
But the good news is that through Obama's action, even if the defense authorization bill and other budget bills stall, the 1.3 percent raise for the troops still will kick in Jan. 1.
All federal budget bills for next fiscal year — including the defense budget — are stalled on Capitol Hill, and lawmakers are likely to adopt a series of continuing budget resolutions to keep federal operations up and running after the the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Those bills would extend financial authorities into the new fiscal year, but at this fiscal year's levels.
Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that will mean no inflation increases for a broad range of programs and equipment purchases, a problematic reality for a host of Pentagon officials.
But still, Obama's order will ensure that even if those continuing resolutions extend into fiscal 2016, the 1.3 percent raise for service members will appear in January paychecks.
As Pentagon officials have repeatedly emphasized in recent months, that means that troops are getting a pay raise next year.
It just won't fatten their wallets as much as they may have hoped.