WASHINGTON — Speaking to a crowd of military spouses on Wednesday, President Donald Trump incorrectly claimed that his administration gave service members their first pay raise in 10 years, a moment he was “proud” to oversee.
In fact, troops have seen a pay raise of at least 1 percent every year for more than 30 years. The 2018 military pay raise — which was 2.4 percent — was the largest for the armed forces in eight years.
On Wednesday, at the signing of an executive order to increase military spouse hiring among federal agencies, Trump called the raise this January the “first time in 10 years” that troops had seen a paycheck boost.
“Today, I’m here to tell you that my administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “That is why, earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise that I’ve already spoken about. And I am proud of it.
“And I guess there will be others, too. Would you like one sooner, or do you want to wait another 10 years? I don’t know.”
White House officials did not respond to questions seeking clarification on the remarks. Trump’s comments came as House Armed Services Committee members debated their annual defense authorization legislation, which includes the 2019 military pay raise provisions.
In recent months, Trump and Republican congressional officials have repeatedly referenced both the 2018 and proposed 2019 military pay hike (which is 2.6 percent) as evidence that their party is working to recognize the sacrifices of service members.
In March, in a speech in front of troops in California, Trump received a loud ovation when he spoke about the recently passed budget that “includes the largest pay raise you have received in more than eight years.”
Trump’s comments on Wednesday drew laughter from the crowd but confusion from military advocates who have pushed for consistent military pay raises each year.
At the event, Trump said that moves like the pay hikes and improving employment opportunities for military spouses are critical to keeping military families safe and stable.
“When you are strong, your families are strong, and America thrives,” he said.
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.