You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Congress more willing to cut military pay raises, benefits

Apr. 17, 2013 - 04:39PM   |  
  • Filed Under

The Defense Department’s plans to slow military pay growth and increase Tricare fees may have become less objectionable to Congress in a time of tight budgets.

At a Wednesday hearing, leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel said they were not pleased with the notion of saving money by reducing benefits — but also did not say they would oppose the plans.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., the personnel panel chairwoman, said it was “regrettable” that the proposed 1 percent basic pay raise for Jan. 1, 2014, would be less than the average private-sector increase and added that she is “skeptical” about Tricare fee hikes aimed mostly at working-age retirees.

Gillibrand, who took over the subcommittee in January, acknowledged the Pentagon was forced by budgetary constraints to make “difficult choices” on the budget.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the personnel panel’s ranking Republican — who in the past has thrown up roadblocks to Pentagon plans to raise Tricare enrollment fees and deductibles — said he is willing to consider increases.

Graham said his primary concern is making sure the health care benefit is sustainable over the long term, and he would accept a “gradual premium increase.” The goal, he said, is to have an “affordable” benefit with “rational and logical” financing.

On the basic pay raise, Graham said, “I wish it were more” but he understood the decision to limit raises.

The 1 percent raise proposed by the Pentagon would replace the 1.8 percent increase called for under a federal pay formula that links increases to average wage growth in the private sector.

Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel, said it was an “extremely hard decision” within the Pentagon to reduce the size of the raise, but the overall budget is rising slower than previously planned.

Capping the raises was a “collective decision,” she said.

In a statement provided to the panel, defense personnel officials said the reduced raise would save $540 million in the fiscal 2014 budget but “should not significantly affect recruiting and retention.”

Military associations representing the interests of service members, retirees and their families do not support the pay raise cap. Joseph Barnes, a retired Navy master chief who is executive director of the Fleet Reserve Association and co-chairman of the Military Coalition, said pay caps are not harmless.

“The current high rate of unemployment will not continue indefinitely,” he said. He suggested that an improved civilian job market could lead service members to consider leaving and potential recruits to consider other options.

The coalition, a group of more than 30 military and veterans organizations sharing a common legislative agenda, says in a statement submitted to the panel that history shows capping pay raises is “an exceptionally slippery slope which has never ended well.”

Pay caps in the 1970s led to serious retention problems that were fixed by two huge pay increases in 1981 and 1982 to make military pay competitive with the private sector. In the 1980s and early 1990s, pay was capped again, until the gap between military and civilian pay grew to 13.5 percent by 1998, resulting in another severe retention problem, the Coalition says.

New calls to reduce raises “are exceptionally short-sighted in light of the extensive negative past experience with military pay raise caps,” the Coalition statement says.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Navy Times

This Week's Navy Times

Go mustang
LDO and warrant careers offer more authority, a pay hike and big retirement payout

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook