WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee on Wednesday recommended a 2.7 percent base pay increase for all servicemembers in fiscal 2007, significantly above the 2.2 salary boost defense officials have been seeking.
The difference between the House proposal and the Pentagon’s plans would be about $6 a month for the youngest enlisted troops, and nearly $13 extra a month for an E-5 with 10 years experience.
House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee Chairman John McHugh, R-N.Y., said the goal was to further close the gap between military pay rates and civilian salaries. Warrant officers and midgrade enlisted servicemembers could also see additional targeted pay increases for hard-to-fill specialties.
The initial Defense Department proposal would have put the military pay raise equal to the Employment Cost Index, the predicted pay growth among private sector jobs. For the last seven years, Congress has increased military pay above that mark.
“It’s our goal to eliminate that gap,” McHugh said.
The subcommittee’s budget recommendations also include increasing the bonus for transferring to the Army from the Navy or Air Force, from the current $2,500 payout to $10,000. The Air Force has already announced plans to cut nearly 900 lieutenants — 43 percent of those commissioned in 2002 and 2003 — from the force because of an officer surplus in that service.
Bonuses for health care and nuclear technician specialties would also be increased.
The budget proposal would also mandate use of military planes to transport deceased servicemembers to the city of their final resting place. Currently, commercial planes are used to transport those remains because of military noncompetition rules regarding private industry.
The committee blocked Defense Department plans to charge annual fees for Tricare coverage for certain retired military personnel, instead recommending a study into the effects of such a plan. That proposal had been protested by veterans organizations and military family groups.
McHugh said the issue of rising health care costs needs to be addressed, but said the fees plan in its current form would try to recoup too much money to quickly, potentially harming veterans’ health care coverage.
The budget process is still in its early stages. Next week the full House Armed Services Committee will debate the bill, and send its final version to the full House for consideration.
Even after the House passes the budget it still must be approved by the Senate and signed by the president before it becomes law.