Troops are on track to see their highest pay raise they’ve seen in years, despite lawmakers putting off a vote on defense spending for FY 2017 in order to accommodate President-elect Trump’s transition into the White House. Though the House and the Senate are still working out all of the details of the military policy bill referred to as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the proposed version as it stands includes a 2.1% pay increase for military members and that portion of the legislation could be implemented despite President Obama’s request to keep the increase at 1.6%.
Congress has already made the decision to not pass a defense appropriations bill for 2017 before the end of the year, and instead prolong it for another four months to vote after President-elect Trump takes office. Though pushing the vote back means other parts of the NDAA would have their spending increases delayed, lawmakers say the military pay increase of 2.1% could be unfazed.
In September, Congress pushed back against Obama’s proposed military pay hike of only 1.6% arguing that troops deserved to be compensated fairly and disputed his claim that the low wage increase was “necessary”. Though the law requires military pay to be increased at least 2.1% yearly for the purpose of keeping incomes comparable with those of the private sector, the President has the authority to overpower it. Under Obama, military members have repeatedly seen their pay increases slashed, staying below 2% since 2011. In FY 2016, service members only saw a pay raise of 1.4%.
While the 2.1% seems minimal, critics argue that the hike would send a message to troops and their families that their finances are being considered more than they have been in the past administration. However, Pentagon planners say that the extra 0.5% costs the Department of Defense over $2.2 billion and they need that money to reinvest in training and modernization.