Defense Budget 2007: Pentagon seeks 2.2 percent pay increase
ARLINGTON, Va. — For fiscal 2007, the Pentagon is seeking a 2.2 percent pay raise for troops, the lowest increase since 1994 and well below the average for the last 10 years.
The raise, in the $439.3 billion fiscal 2007 defense budget, is tied to the rise in wage growth in the United States, according to Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Defense Department spokeswoman.
“We went to 2.2 because that’s the ECI increase, which we follow by law,” Krenke said in a Monday e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “ECI is the ‘Employment Cost Index’ published by the Department of Labor.”
A 1999 law set pay adjustments a half percentage point above annual wage growth in the private sector as measured by the ECI. ECI-plus-a-half ran through 2006 to narrow a vaguely defined “gap” between military pay and private sector wages, but has elapsed.
The budget proposal now goes to Congress, where the House and Senate will hold hearings and work separately on its various provisions.
Eventually, after differences are resolved through House-Senate negotiations, the final bill is sent to the president for signature. This is supposed to be completed by the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, but Congress did not approve the fiscal 2006 budget until late December 2005.
The basic budget does not include the cost of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, which since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has covered by asking Congress to grant emergency supplemental requests.
For fiscal 2007, the Bush administration is submitting a separate supplemental budget request of $50 billion along with the regular budget.
If the wars continue at the same level throughout fiscal 2007, the Pentagon is likely to have to go back to Congress for more money. The supplemental request for 2006 totaled $120 billion.
The proposed budget also calls for $1.9 billion in retention bonuses and incentives and $263 million in pay increases for certain warrant officers and midgrade senior enlisted personnel.
The overall budget represents a 6.9 percent increase over the $410.8 billion budget enacted by Congress last year, according to Tina Jonas, the Pentagon’s comptroller.
As with the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, released in tandem with the budget, special operations and nontraditional combat “enhancers,” such as civil affairs and unmanned aerial vehicles look to be major winners in 2007.
The congressionally mandated QDR offers a 20-year “road map” for the Pentagon to follow as it builds its future forces and weapons programs.
The 2007 budget adds $5.1 billion in spending on active-duty special operations forces, enough to fund about 4,000 more commandos, Jonas said.
To boost servicemembers’ versatility and competence in stability and reconstruction operations, the budget includes $181 million for languages training and cultural skills, pay and recruitment for specialized personnel, and expanded language training for special operations and intelligence units, she said.
The 2007 budget includes $1.7 billion to purchase 322 additional unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as increasing other remote surveillance capabilities, Jonas said.
The Pentagon also plans to ask for an additional $3.3 billion to combat improvised explosive devices, Jonas said.
“We’ll spend as [much as] we need to address the threat,” Jonas said.