A key Senate panel has already backed a 2.7 percent pay raise for all troops and Defense Department employees, but decisions on increases in National Guard specialty pay and other military compensation issues still loom as lawmakers debate the annual defense authorization bill over the next few days.
The move by Senate Armed Services Committee leaders to include the 2.7 percent pay raise in their draft of the massive defense policy bill is significant because it provides further support for the salary boost. White House officials and members of the House Appropriations Committee have already publicly backed a 2.7 percent raise for troops in 2022.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and chairwoman of the committee’s personnel panel, said the proposed raise shows support not just for keeping military pay levels strong but also renewed support for the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.
“We might finally include a pay raise for civilians that matches inflation,” she said. “I consider this a down payment after a decade that saw civilian pay fail to keep pace with inflation amid attempts by prior administrations to reduce benefits for the civilian workforce.”
Federal civilian workers have seen less than a 2 percent raise every year between 2010 and this year except for 2020, when the pay raise was 2.6 percent.
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.
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.
Whether other pay issues being considered by the panel in coming days receive the same support remains to be seen.
Among the hundreds of amendments to the authorization bill that the full committee is expected to debate over the next two days (in closed-door sessions, out of public site) are several other pay proposals.
Earlier this year, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. and a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, introduced legislation to standardize incentive pays across the military, to ensure that Guard and reserve troops are compensated at the same rates as their active-duty counterparts. She’ll now push to include the idea as an amendment.
Guard and reserve pay issues have received extra attention in recent months following an unprecedented level of activity for the part-time troops over the last year, with nearly 200,000 mobilized for pandemic response, civil unrest support and security duty in Washington, D.C. in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.
Another amendment under consideration will examine whether annual leave for troops should be adjusted, while a separate proposal would boost paid parental leave for troops beyond the current, disjointed offerings from each of the services.
Senate Armed Services officials are expected to offer their full draft of the authorization bill by the end of the week. House Armed Services Committee members won’t finalize theirs until September, and the two chambers are expected to spend most of the fall working out a compromise measure.
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.