House and Senate negotiators have come up with a final version of the annual defense bill that includes the biggest pay raise for troops in years.
The slated pay raise in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act of 2.1 percent, the highest figure seen since 2011, is in direct defiance of the Obama administration’s desired figure of just 1.6 percent, Military Times reports.
Obama placed raises for 2016 at 1.3 percent. The Obama administration’s proposed 1.6 percent is 0.5 percent lower than the private sector, even though public sector wages are supposed to match those in the private sector.
The NDAA comes to a $618.7 billion total and also allocates $3.2 billion to increase the number of troops in an effort to ameliorate readiness concerns across the services.
But the $3.2 isn’t purely for expanding the number of troops, but also to shore up the Air Force and Marine Corps, two services with serious maintenance issues on F-18 jets and CH-53 helicopters.
Immediately, the $3.2 billion allocation to expand the military will become the target of Democrats who want increases in military spending to be offset by corresponding increases in non-defense spending.
Democratic Rep. Susan Davis, ranking member of the House Armed Service Personnel Subcommittee, wondered earlier this year where the extra funds to support the $3.2 billion increase would come from.
“I am concerned that by increasing [pay] above the requested amount, we are taking funds away from other critical priorities, including readiness,” Davis said in April, according to Federal News Radio. “This additional half percent pay raise will provide an E-4 with an additional $11 a month, but that will cost a total of $330 million, which must be taken out of somewhere else in the budget.”
Nevertheless, the House is likely set to vote on the final version of the annual defense budget this Friday. The Senate is likely to hold a vote the week after.
GOP President-elect Donald Trump’s victory earlier in November may have helped push along negotiations between House and Senate on the pay increase.
And yet, it still remains within the purview of Obama whether or not the veto the defense legislation. It would one of his last and final acts as president.
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