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Presidential panel calls for freezing military pay, housing allowances

A presidential commission on reducing the deficit has recommended freezing basic military pay and housing allowances for three years starting in 2011, according to a draft report of the commission’s recommendations posted online Wednesday.

 “A three-year freeze at 2011 levels for these compensation categories would save the federal government $7.6 billion in compensation and tax expenditures, as well as another $1.6 billion in less retirement accrual, or $9.2 billion total discretionary savings in 2015,” it said.

The move would not affect combat pay, the report said.

A White House spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The recommendation is likely to get a cool reception in Congress.

“I’m not sure there will be much of an appetite to freeze military pay while our troops are fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Josh Holly, a spokesman for Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee, said in an e-mail.

As it now stands, the House of Representatives has passed a defense spending bill that would give troops a 1.9 percent pay raise next year. The Senate is calling for a 1.4 percent pay raise, but it has not yet voted on the matter. Congress needs to come to an agreement on defense spending by the end of the year or pay will remain flat in January.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has looked for other ways to trim defense spending, such as closing Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., but that proposal has been roundly criticized by Virginia lawmakers including Democratic U.S. Sen. Jim Webb.

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