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Service members may see pay hikes under proposed 2022 military budget

Money (Steven Depolo/Flickr)

Members of the military may see pay increases and boosts to their food and housing allowances in the coming fiscal year.

President Joe Biden’s administration submitted its budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year to Congress late last month. The defense request totals $752.9 billion, with $715 billion slated to go to the Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. military services, and the remainder slated for other national defense expenditures.

Based on the listed funding priorities, Northwest Florida communities are likely to fare well under the military’s spending plans. Each of the military services has rolled out its individual budget proposals in recent days, providing general highlights among the reams of figures.

In broad strokes, the Air Force budget for fiscal 2022 is proposed at almost $173.7 billion, a number that includes the $17.4 billion budget request from the new Space Force. The Space Force has a presence at Eglin Air Force Base through the 20th Space Control Squadron, which became part of the Space Force late last year. The 20th Space Control Squadron operates a phased-array radar — which can detect and track objects in space without the need for rotating an antenna — at the sprawling base’s Site C-6 near Freeport.

The combined Navy and Marine Corps spending plan is pegged just short of $212 billion, with the Marines proposing a $48 billion budget. The Army is pursuing an almost $173 billion allocation.

But perhaps of broader interest is the Air Force’s request for $38.4 billion in military personnel funding, an increase of almost $1 billion over the current fiscal year.

At that level of funding, the Air Force is proposing to increase pay by 2.7% — an increase also proposed for the Space Force — to increase the basic housing allowance by 3.8% and to boost the subsistence allowance, which covers food costs, by 2.3%. All of those hikes, if they remain unchanged, will have an impact on the local economy.

Like the Air Force, the Navy, which also has a major presence at Naval Air Station Pensacola and elsewhere across the region, is proposing a 2.7% pay increase as part of its spending plan. Likewise, the Army and Marine Corps budget proposals contemplate a 2.7% pay hike.

Among the highlights noted in the Air Force’s presentation is the service’s ongoing commitment to the development of hypersonic weapons. Development of those weapons, which could travel at multiple times the speed of sound, is part of the mission profile at Eglin Air Force Base.

Additionally, the Air Force’s rollout of its budget proposal notes that its spending plan builds the technology behind the Advanced Battle Management System. ABMS, which got its first test in December 2019 at Eglin, digitally links data from military personnel and equipment operating on land, in the water, in the air and in the digital realm, all with an eye toward improving decision-making.

The military’s investment in new technology already has made an impact at Northwest Florida bases.

In March and April of this year Eglin took delivery of the first two new F-15EX fighter jets, the first new F-15s acquired by the Air Force since 2004. The first F-15 flew in 1972, but the F-15EX is a thoroughly modern aircraft with more weapons capabilities than earlier versions.

The Air Force awarded Boeing a $1.2 billion contract in July 2020 for the first lot of eight F-15EX aircraft, all of which are slated to come to Eglin for operational and developmental testing. While the first two jets arrived this fiscal year, the next jets in the allotment won’t begin arriving until after the Oct. 1 start of the upcoming fiscal year.

Similarly, the Navy on Thursday took delivery of the first TH-73A training helicopter for use at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton. That aircraft, and subsequent deliveries continuing through the upcoming fiscal year and into 2024, will serve as the Navy’s Advanced Helicopter Training System aircraft.

In all, 130 of the helicopters will come to Whiting Field from AgustaWestland Philadelphia, a subsidiary of defense contractor Leonardo. For the upcoming fiscal year, the Navy plans to add 36 of the TH-73A helicopters to its inventory.

The arrival of the TH-73A, which will replace Whiting Field’s aging fleet of Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters, also will have implications for the local civilian economy.

Leonardo will build and staff a 100,000-square-foot helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park directly across the runway from Whiting Field to provide maintenance and repair support for the TH-73A. Groundbreaking is expected in December of this year.

“Today’s event marks a significant milestone for Leonardo, marking our growing effort and commitment to becoming not just a supplier, but a partner and strategic asset for the United States in several sectors,” Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo said as the first TH-73A was rolled out in Philadelphia. “We are proud to be a core contributor to the future of U.S. defense.”

Beyond new aircraft, military construction projects are another indicator of how the federal defense budget will affect local economies. Beyond work already planned or underway at Northwest Florida bases — most notably Tyndall Air Force Base, which was effectively leveled by Hurricane Michael in 2018 — neither the Air Force, Navy nor Army budget proposals for the upcoming year list any military construction proposals for the area.

The budget proposal will, of course, have to make its way through Congress and back to the president’s desk for final action. Along the way, there could be any number of changes.

The new federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1, although it is possible that congressional wrangling could delay enactment of a new budget. In that case, Congress could pass a continuing resolution to continue funding the military and other federal activities until an agreement is reached on the new budget.


(c) 2021 the Northwest Florida Daily News

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