Must-Pass Defense Bill Includes 4.5% Military Pay Raise on Top of 15% Increase for Junior Enlisted Troops

(U.S. Army/Mary Davis)

A key House panel is endorsing a 4.5% across-the-board pay raise for service members on top of a 15% raise for junior enlisted troops in a must-pass defense policy bill that was released Monday.

The recommendation from the House Armed Services Committee in its draft version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, means the military's lowest-ranking forces could see a 19.5% pay hike next year if the plan becomes law.

There are still several hurdles before the bill becomes law, including negotiations with the Senate, which has not yet revealed its plans for a military pay raise next year. But inclusion in the base text of the House NDAA signals that House members will prioritize increasing junior enlisted pay as the defense bill works its way through Congress.

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Members of the House Armed Services Committee previously said they wanted to give E-1s through E-4s a 15% pay raise after a bipartisan group of lawmakers empaneled to study military quality-of-life issues found military pay has lagged behind inflation and private-sector pay.

The committee introduced a bill last month to enact the 15% pay raise. Committee leaders said they planned to include the bill in their NDAA.

Meanwhile, by law, all service members are entitled to an annual raise. The raise they are entitled to next year is 4.5%, which is also the rate the Biden administration requested in its annual budget proposal to Congress.

The proposed House NDAA that was released Monday includes both the across-the-board raise and the targeted raise for junior enlisted members, meaning E-1s through E-4s would get a 19.5% raise next year, according to the bill text and committee staffers who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the committee.

"Members were seeing that some kids are making more money at Walmart or Home Depot," a senior staffer for committee Republicans said at the briefing. "If we're asking young kids to launch multimillion-dollar planes off billion-dollar aircraft [carriers], we should pay them a little more than your greeter at Walmart."

While top senators have also indicated they are interested in re-examining junior enlisted pay this year, they have not fully endorsed the House plan yet. The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to work on its version of the NDAA next month.

Also unclear is where the Biden administration will fall on the targeted raise for junior enlisted troops.

Last year, when some House members tried to give junior enlisted troops a 30% pay bump, administration officials opposed the proposal on the ground that they believed it was premature amid a comprehensive review of military pay. The administration's review is not expected to be done until the end of the year, and defense officials have continued to defer to the review when asked about increasing junior enlisted pay.

But House committee staffers argued their proposal should not be a "big surprise" to the administration since the House got close to hiking junior enlisted pay last year and the 15% rate the House Armed Services Committee chose this year is aligned with one of the options the administration's review is considering.

The House committee is scheduled to debate its NDAA next week.

Related: 'Restore Real Value': House Panel Wants to Give Junior Enlisted Troops 15% Pay Raise

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