House appropriators on Tuesday backed a 2.7 percent pay raise for all troops next year and agreed to White House plans to trim military end strength under their defense spending plan for fiscal 2022.
The $706 billion proposal (which does not include military construction funds) is still months away from becoming law, but shows solidarity between House Democratic leaders and the administration on funding levels for fiscal 2022.
It’s also a strong indication that despite the potential fights ahead, the military pay raise is unlikely to be a sticking point in the funding debates.
The 2.7 percent raise would be slightly below the 3.0 percent pay raise troops saw this past January, but is in line with the federal formula estimating the growth in private sector wages next year.
Troops’ pay raises are all but guaranteed each year, but don’t always keep up with inflation and civilian pay boosts.
However, lawmakers for the past five years have opted to stick with the federal formula for pay raises and not make any changes, citing the need to keep military salaries competitive with private-sector pay.
For junior enlisted troops, a 2.7 percent raise in 2022 would amount to roughly $790 more a year in pay over 2021 levels.
For senior enlisted and junior officers, that hike equals about $1,400 more. An O-4 with 12 years service would see more than $2,600 extra next year under a 2.7 percent increase.
The House Appropriations spending plan would fund a military end strength of nearly 1.35 million troops, about 2,000 below current levels. That’s also in line with the White House budget request outlined in May.
Democratic leaders on the appropriations committee’s defense panel added about $55 million in new funds for sexual assault and prevention efforts within the Defense Department, almost 14 percent above the White House request.
In a statement, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said the money would combat “a serious and pervasive problem that for too long has been overlooked by the Pentagon.”
The proposal also includes $1 million for the renaming of military facilities and locations which honor leaders of the Confederacy.
Combined with about $11 billion in military construction funds included in a separate appropriations bill released last week, the total Defense Department spending proposed by the House panel roughly matches the $716 billion proposed by the White House for next fiscal year.
In a press event Tuesday morning, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., said he expects that spending total to be a “challenge” for lawmakers in coming months.
Conservatives in Congress have argued that number is far too low to match current threats worldwide, and are pushing for a total defense spending plan which tops $750 billion. Meanwhile, some progressive members of the Democratic Party are pushing for further cuts, arguing the department has seen too-late boosts in recent years.
The House Appropriations’ subcommittee on defense is expected to debate the proposal in a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning. The full committee is expected to advance some version of the measure later this month.
Senate appropriators have not said when they will offer their first draft of the defense budget. A final agreement between the chambers is not expected to be released until late this year.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.