Two key lawmakers want a sizable increase to pay and benefits for enlisted troops as part of next year's defense authorization bill, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said this week.
During an appearance Wednesday at an event hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said he and committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., would "lean into" proposals to "significantly" boost the compensation and benefits packages in 2022.
"We want to maintain a professional military, and we need to compensate them as professionals. And we aren't doing that right now, particularly in the enlisted ranks," Rogers said. "So you're going to see us making some efforts to address some of those concerns."
He did not elaborate on the plans during the event, and his office did not provide further details when asked by Military.com.
A spokesperson for Smith said that Rogers wants to "look at how to increase enlisted pay separate from officer pay." Smith supports the idea, the spokesperson added, "but the ‘how’ hasn't been discussed."
"Taking care of our service members and their families is an integral component of the readiness and resiliency of the Joint Force," spokesperson Monica Matoush said in a statement to Military.com. "We will be looking at next year's defense budget to ensure we have the right mix of pay and benefits to attract, recruit and retain the most talented military in the world. We will also keep options open if we perceive there may be a shortfall that would negatively affect service members and their families."
First, lawmakers must finalize this year's version of the must-pass defense policy bill.
The bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, would support providing a 2.7% base pay raise to all service members come Jan. 1.
The bill matches the Biden administration's requested pay bump, which in turn followed a federal formula for setting annual pay raises for service members that's based on expected growth in private-sector wages.
Military pay raises have followed private-sector increases every year since 2017, but came in under the private sector for three years before that.
This year's NDAA also would create a new stipend called the Basic Needs Allowance that's meant to help low-income troops make ends meet, with a particular focus on addressing food insecurity.
The House and Senate still must reconcile their versions of the NDAA before it becomes law, but the 2.7% pay raise and basic needs allowance are in both versions.
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at Rebecca.Kheel@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ReporterKheel.