Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno gives a keynote address in Washington, D.C., in October. Odierno said Monday the president's recommended 1 percent pay raise for troops is 'a huge difference' over time for the Pentagon compared with Congress' recommended 1.8 percent increase in pay. (Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade / Army)
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on Monday said he favors the president’s recommended 1 percent pay raise for troops over Congress’ 1.8 percent recommendation.
“That sounds like a little difference but it is a huge difference throughout the years,” Odierno said. “It’s billions of dollars ... three, four, five years from now. So we think what we can do is manage the pay raises at a bit lower level for a few years.”
The chief made the comments during a question and answer session hosted by American Enterprise Institute.
Defense leaders are “not looking necessarily at pay freezes,” Odierno said, but he warned that “if we continue to have a higher level of pay raises, it is going to become really a problem for us.”
Pay and benefits are an increasing problem for a cash-strapped Pentagon. Though personal health care costs rose last year at the slowest rate in the last 50 years — a fact the White House celebrated Monday — the same cannot be said for military families. Personnel costs to include health care have more than doubled since 2001, and are on path to double again within 10 years.
Many analysts are calling for benefit reform, and the Obama administration is taking initial steps in that direction. It wants to increase premiums and introduce enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard/Extra and TRICARE for Life.
Congress remains opposed to such efforts, saying the changes would cost working-age retirees in the TRICARE Prime family option an additional $31 and $128 per month.