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WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials will ask Congress to extend the military pay table to 40 years, with pay increases designed to give senior military personnel — enlisted, warrants and commissioned officers — an incentive to stay in the force a little longer.

David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, on Wednesday did not provide any details of what the pay raises might look like, but said defense officials would like to see senior people with high-demand technical skills or valuable institutional knowledge keep serving longer than they currently are.

“We think we need to encourage some people to stay longer, and we need to recognize that time with some additional degree of pay increase,” Chu said.

On Monday, the Defense Advisory Committee on Military Compensation voiced similar concerns, noting that the current pay rates offer no incentive for any servicemember to remain in the military after 30 years.

That group is expected to offer a similar pay proposal, including graduated retirement plans ranging from 25 percent of base pay at 10 years to 100 percent of base pay at 40 years when it issues its final report on the military pay system in April.

Such senior pay proposals by the department have generated little support from Congress in recent years, according to Steve Strobridge, director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America.

He worries that an across-the-board incentive for officers to remain in the military could cause backlogs in the promotion system, as more spots remain filled by would-be retirees. That could cause some, perhaps those who’ve just passed 20 years’ service, to opt to retire early, rather than wait longer for their chance at a promotion, he said.

“If they want to keep (the senior officers), they can do it on a case-by-case basis with tools they have now,” Strobridge said. “With this proposal, you could have an awful lot of new problems.”

John Grady, spokesman for the Association of the United States Army, agreed that the promotion schedule could become more complicated, but he said adding more years to the pay table may be the easiest way to keeping the institutional knowledge of those senior people.

“There are no incentives to keep those senior folks now, and this would be particularly helpful in keeping them,” he said. “They’re looking at building up their pay and building up their retirement base. This would probably encourage a lot of them to stay.”

Chu did not provide a timetable for presenting the idea to Congress, but told members of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee he expects to offer a proposal to them in the near future.


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