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Report: US troops may get 3% pay raise in 2021 defense budget

U.S. Army Reserve Col. Heather Reuter, 2nd Brigade, 95th Training Division Commander (center) acts as the presiding officer for the units’ Change of Responsibility ceremony as incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Eric J. Roberts (right), and outgoing Maj. Command Sgt. Maj. Marc E. Kersey (left) render a hand salute during the playing of the national anthem, Jan. 25, 2020 at the Vancouver Armed Forces Reserve Center, Vancouver, Wash. (Photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
June 22, 2020

A House committee draft of the 2021 defense budget would include a three percent pay raise for military personnel, as well as expanded child care options and a basic needs allowance for low-income military families.

Military Times obtained and reported on an advanced copy of the draft bill prepared for the House Armed Services Committee in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. The bill is reportedly set to be unveiled and voted on by Tuesday.

The pay increase would amount to about $860 more per year for junior enlisted members. Senior enlisted and junior officers would see about $1,500 more per year under the pay increase. An O-4 grade officer with an average of 12 years of service, would see around $2,800 more under the pay increase.

The proposed pay increase is one item in the bill that is likely to meet bipartisan approval. In February, President Donald Trump’s White House budget proposal for 2021 also called for a 3 percent pay increase. The pay increase would also follow a 3.1 percent increase implemented in the 2020 budget.

The basic needs allowance proposal would also increase pay for service members. Under the proposal, military families whose total pay is less than 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines would receive a monthly stipend of several hundred dollars to help cover food, clothing, and other basic costs. It was not clear what the exact pay scale for the stipend would be.

The proposed basic needs allowance likely faces tougher odds. The Trump White House stopped a similar measure in last year’s budget negotiations, citing concerns about costs.

Proponents of the measure, including military family advocates, have noted that approximately one-third of military children attending Department of Defense schools qualified for reduced lunch costs in recent years.

The draft also included a measure to increase child care options for military bases, which typically have rotating 24-hour duty shifts. Language in the particular draft proposal calls for military leaders to provide child care to troops or civilian defense employees working on rotating shifts.

Another proposal to alleviate child care needs on military bases included an incentive program, giving preferential on-base housing to military spouses who provided home daycare for other military families.

Other provisions in the draft proposal included a mandate for diagnostic equipment, testing capabilities, and personal protective equipment for military personnel amid the coronavirus outbreak. Another health-related item would include a study, conducted in partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, to determine the incidence of cancer among military pilots.

The draft proposal also called for establishing a military domestic violence task force and polling troops on issues relating to “racist, anti-Semitic, or supremacist” extremist ideology among active-duty troops.