White House offers small pay raise for troops in 2011
WASHINGTON — The White House will propose a 1.4 percent military pay increase in 2011, which if approved would be the smallest since the start of all-volunteer military in 1973.
That figure represents a steep drop from the 3.9 percent boost troops saw earlier this month.
White House officials said the 1.4 percent figure, which will be included in the fiscal 2011 budget to be unveiled Monday, is based on projected private sector wage increases for next year. By law, the administration’s pay increase proposal is resrticted to no more than the Employment Cost Index, which for 2011 is the lowest in more than a decade.
But officials also note that housing allowance increases, new retention bonuses and specialty pays will drive troops’ actual compensation up about 4.2 percent next year. They admitted the pay raise figure islow, but said they’re confident troops will be satisfied with the full compensation package, especially considering the country’s continued economic difficulties.
News of the diminished pay raise proposal came before First Lady Michelle Obama addressed military spouses at Bolling Air Force Base on Tuesday, touting a series of efforts to improve the quality of life for military families.
The 2011 budget will also include a 3 percent increase in spending for family support programs, including $1.3 billion to cover child care shortages and $1.9 billion to provide more family counseling options.
The budget plan also calls for the replacement or renovation of 103 Defense Department schools by 2015 — many of which are overseas, officials said — and $262 million for veterans employment and training programs, $6 million more than in the last budget.
“We’ve seen the huge burden of eight years of war on our troops: tour after tour, year after year, missing out on moments every parent treasures,” she said. “We’ve seen sacrifices of families on the home front. ... That’s why my husband and his administration have worked to do right by our armed forces and their families, to be there like you have been for us, to lighten your load as you have lightened ours.”
Officials also said that the first lady played a key role in setting military family priorities in the budget, calling attention to the complaints and needs of spouses and wounded troops whom she met with over the course of the last year.