(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Congressional negotiators have decided on a 1 percent military pay raise for 2014 but are taking steps to ensure the White House is ultimately responsible for what would be the smallest annual pay bump since the birth of the all-volunteer force 40 years ago.
Until now, the 2011 basic pay raise of 1.4 percent had been the smallest since the all-volunteer force was created at the end of the Vietnam War.
The 1 percent raise, which would be effective Jan. 1, also would end a string of 21 consecutive years in which the military pay raise matched or exceeded private-sector wage growth.
The compromise 2014 National Defense Authorization Act approved by leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees is actually silent on the military raise, allowing a presidential executive order signed in August to determine the raise.
President Obama notified Congress on Aug. 30 that he was exercising his power as the government pay agent to cap the Jan. 1 increase at 1 percent.
Service members would be due a 1.8 percent increase under the federal pay formula that is still a part of permanent law.
The House had approved a 1.8 percent military raise in June as part of its version of the annual defense policy bill, but the Senate Armed Services Committee backed the White House. By remaining silent on the size of the raise, the compromise bill leaves the decision — and the blame — for the reduced military raise on the White House.
In his letter to Congress on the raise, Obama said he is “strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made such great contributions to our nation over the past decade of war.
But, he noted, the U.S. is recovering “from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” that require tough decisions to stay “on a sustainable fiscal course.”