Photo Credit: C. Todd Lopez
This year, Soldiers and most civilians will see an increase in the amount of their pay withheld for Social Security. The withholding has increased from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. But for Soldiers, the change in Social Security withholding may not have a noticeable effect on their take-home pay.
House lawmakers want loosely backed a 2.1 percent military pay raise for next year and a force expansion totaling troops in 2017 and pushed for a boost military end strength by 27,000 troops beyond the over Pentagon's requests, according to in their first draft of the annual defense authorization bill released Tuesday.
The legislation, which features hundreds of defense spending priorities and policies for fiscal 2017, also includes an overhaul of military judicial rules but does not yet include any major military medical reform measures. House Armed Services Committee staff said those proposals will be unveiled next week.
Committee leaders have not yet released the total cost of their proposal, expected to be a contentious fight in the months to come.
A budget deal reached by Congress and the White House last fall set fiscal 2017 defense spending around $580 billion, but House conservatives have insisted that new overseas threats mandate additional contingency spending above the agreed-upon level.
Here's an overview:
A BIGGER PAY RAISE
Lawmakers' 2.1 percent pay raise recommendation matches the expected jump in private sector wages for 2017, and technically surpasses goes above the White House’s call plan for a 1.6 percent pay hike next year. The House Armed Services Committee staff said they are confident lawmakers can override any possibility the president will substitute his preferred rate. But they’ll need the Senate's support.
If, ultimately, they are unsuccessful, a 1.6 percent pay raise in 2017 would be the highest for troops since 2013, and would continue a six-year streak of military pay hikes that fall below 2.0 percent. Defense Department officials have said the lower-than-expected raise will save the department more than $300 million in fiscal 2017, and more than $2.2 billion over the next five years.
They have also emphasized that even at a lower level, troops will see bigger salaries starting next January. A 1.6 percent pay increase amounts to a $400 yearly pay boost for most junior enlisted troops and up to $1,500 more in annual pay for mid-career officers.
But the differences in the pay plans can have a noticeable big effect on military families’ finances.
For The gap between the White House pay raise plan and the expected 2.1-percent boost for an E-4 with three years of service, the gap between the two pay raise plans totals about $136 a year in pay. For an E-7 with 10 years, it’s almost $228.
Among officers, the lower pay raise plan would drop the annual earnings of an O-2 with two years service by roughly $234 in 2017. An O-4 with 12 years would effectively lose about $425.
Troops' And outside advocates have argued emphasized that such losses are significant, saying is a real loss, since the military pay won’t keep up with private sector wages and costs. They estimate the pay gap between civilian paychecks and military salaries will increase to more than 5 percent if the administration's White House's 2017 plan becomes law.
The Army, Marine Corps and Air Force all would see personnel growth end strength boosts over current levels under the House measure, a stark contrast from White House plans to trim each of the services.
Lawmakers want 25,000 more soldiers for the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. Additionally, the Under the House plan, Army's active-duty force end strength would rise from 475,000 to 480,000 soldiers, instead of dropping to 460,000 under planned Pentagon cuts. House Republicans in the House have roundly criticized that drawdown, saying the move will leave the service degraded and potentially unprepared.
The Marine Corps would grow by 1,000 troops under the House plan, instead of shrinking from 184,000 to 182,000 under White House proposals.
Air Force personnel would grow by 285 individuals instead of shrinking by almost 4,000, to 317,000.
Lawmakers agreed with administration drawdown plans only in their Navy recommendation. That service is slated to drop from 329,200 sailors by this fall to 322,900 by fall 2017.
The But the House plan does not specify how it would they’ll pay for the personnel increases, and Defense Department officials have said they cannot provide adequate training and equipment for those force levels without hefty increases elsewhere in the defense budget.
The bill also calls for an additional 25,000 Guardsmen and reservists, all for the Army.
BASES, CRIME, WOMEN IN COMBAT
The House committee's draft bill once again rejects Pentagon requests for another Base Realignment and Closure round.
Defense officials repeatedly have pushed for one, arguing that post-war military cutbacks have left the services with too much costly infrastructure. But lawmakers have regularly opposed the idea, citing the still-ongoing costs associated with the last round of base closures 2005 base closing round and potential risk of losing loss of surge capabilities.
It also includes a Pentagon-led overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including changes such as expanding the statute of limitations for child abuse offenses and fraudulent enlistment. The changes also adds new offenses to the UCMJ code, including improper use of government computers and enhanced penalties against individuals who victimize military recruits and trainees.
Lawmakers also included a provision to develop "lighter, stronger and more advanced personal protective equipment systems" for all troops, including gender-appropriate sizing of body armor and other gear.
And they added language allowing Women Airforce Service Pilots who served honorably during World War II to have their remains buried at Arlington National Cemetery, overriding an Army policy change from last year that has infuriated activists.
The full House is expected to vote on the authorization bill in mid-May. Senate lawmakers are expected to offer their first drafts of the legislation around the same time.
Leaders from both chambers have expressed optimism that a final authorization bill can be sent to the president before end end of the fiscal year ends, Sept. 30. But that has only happened a few times in the last three decades, and both chambers are scheduled to leave Capitol Hill for a two-month break this summer in advance of the November elections.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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.