Senate panel backs troop pay raise
May 26, 2007
WASHINGTON — The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday backed a 3.5 percent pay raise for all troops next year, mirroring House plans for bigger paychecks than the military had requested.
The committee’s nearly $649 billion fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill would go beyond the defense department’s planned 3.0 percent pay increase starting next January, and put it above the anticipated 3.0 percent average civilian raise for 2008. Committee members called it an effort to close the gap between military and civilian paychecks.
Congressional estimates put servicemembers’ pay 3.9 percent behind that of comparable civilian personnel.
The difference between the Pentagon’s plans and the higher pay increase would be about $6.50 a month for the youngest enlisted troops, and nearly $12.75 extra a month for an E-5 with 10 years of experience.
The 3.5 percent proposal would affect only military wages, but they are often used as a guideline for other government workers.
The House version of the defense authorization bill, approved May 17, includes not only a 3.5 percent increase in 2008 but also a guaranteed raise 0.5 percent above the civilian average until 2012. That plan would reduce the military/civilian pay gap to 1.4 percent in the next four years.
The Senate committee’s plan did not contain that provision, and defense officials have announced no long-term pay plans.
Defense Department and White House officials already have publicly opposed the higher pay raise, calling it costly and unneeded. On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the bigger paycheck bump may come at the expense of other programs.
“These are the trade-offs that we have to make, and it seemed to us that 3 percent was a fair increase in compensation,” he said.
Both the House and Senate committee versions include nearly $142 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next fiscal year, and about $4 billion more for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, than the Pentagon’s original budget request.
The full Senate is expected to begin debate on the bill next month. Both chambers must work out differences before the final measure can be sent to the president to become law.