Obama Slashes Pay Raises for Military
President Obama has told Congress he will cap next year's pay raise for U.S. military personnel at 1 percent instead of boosting pay by 1.8 percent as called for by a federal law.
The president's move will negatively impact American combat troops scheduled to remain in Afghanistan through 2014.
The federal law says military pay raises must be based on the Employment Cost Index compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which ties military raises to private sector pay growth. Under that formula, military personnel should be getting a 1.8 percent pay raise beginning in January 2014, CNS News reported.
But the law also states that the president can inform Congress of an alternative pay adjustment "if because of national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, the president considers the pay adjustment which would otherwise be required by this section in any year to be inappropriate."
Obama wrote to congressional leaders: "I am strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made such great contributions to our nation over the past decade of war. As our country continues to recover from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, however, we must maintain efforts to keep our nation on a sustainable fiscal course."
He also asserted that his decision "will not materially affect the federal government's ability to attract and retain well-qualified members" of the military.
The House passed a bill in July authorizing the 1.8 percent raise, but the Senate has set the raise at 1 percent as recommended by Obama.
Military pay rose 1.7 percent this year and 1.6 percent in 2012.
Retired Air Force Col. Mike Hayden, director of government relations for the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), calculated that the reduced pay raise could cost an officer with 10 years of service about $52 a month next year, or $8,000 over the remaining years of his or her career. It would also cost a service member $20,000 in retirement pay.
Hayden wrote on the MOAA website: "Over the past 12 years, Congress worked hard to fix the 13.5 percent pay gap (and resulting retention problems) caused by repeatedly capping military raises below private-sector pay growth in the 1980s and 1990s.
"History has shown that once Congress starts accepting proposals to cap military pay below private-sector growth, pay caps continue until they have weakened retention and readiness."