New in 2017: Expect rigorous debate over military pay and benefits
By: Leo Shane III, Military Times, December 27, 2016
For the first time since 2013, military personnel in January will see a “full” pay raise equal to the expected increase in private sector wages. But it remains unclear whether this is a sign of better benefits and compensation in years to come.
How Congress and the new president treat military pay and benefits will be an issue worth service members’ attention in the year ahead, since the moves will directly affect their families’ finances.
President-elect Donald Trump has already promised to boost military spending, including more personnel and equipment. He has also promised that the country will “take care of the military” better than under President Barack Obama.
Outside advocates hope this means protecting military compensation.
In recent years, Pentagon leaders trimmed expected increases for housing stipends and basic pay to instead redirect hundreds of millions of dollars to modernization and training efforts. Military officials have said it’s a distasteful but necessary tradeoff, given shortfalls in the defense budget.
But troops’ advocates and some lawmakers have said it needlessly burdens troops and their families. They successfully fought a lower pay raise proposal for 2017, and pushed back against plans for a complete overhaul of housing stipends which could have taken away thousands of dollars annually from some troops.
With the new administration they’ll push Trump’s Pentagon to hold personnel costs separate from major weapons purchases, and hope to recoup some of the lost trims in the years to come.