Junior enlisted to get 20% pay bump, E5s get 13% more under House plan

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House lawmakers’ plans to overhaul military pay tables next year would result in a nearly 20% basic salary boost for troops ranked E-4 and below and a substantial bump for E-5s as well.

Under plans unveiled Monday, House Armed Services Committee members next week will consider language in their annual defense authorization bill draft that includes highly revised military pay tables designed to bring all junior enlisted pay to at least $30,000 a year.

Currently, some young enlisted service members can make as little as $24,000 in basic pay, although that total does not include other compensation such as housing allowances and free health care.

But both Republicans and Democrats on the panel have expressed concerns that enlisted troops’ low base pay make it difficult for military recruiters to woo young adults away from civilian careers, where a $15-per-hour wage translates into just over $30,000 a year in salary.

Last month, committee leaders announced a broad plan to boost all pay for all troops ranked E-4 and below by 15%, a move that would add several hundred dollars in monthly pay for those individuals.

However, specifics of the plan released this week show an even more generous base pay hike. Committee staffers confirmed the 15% boost does not include a 4.5% increase planned for all troops, bringing the actual salary increase planned by the committee to 19.5% next year.

For an E-2 with two years of military service, that increase will mean about $5,000 in extra pay next year. For an E-4 with four years of military service, it’s almost $7,500 more in salary.

To ensure E-4s aren’t getting paid more than E-5s, the pay table overhaul also includes increases for mid-career enlisted troops. Combined with the 4.5% across-the-board raise, some E-5s could see up to a 12.5% pay increase next year.

An E-5 with six years service can expect a pay boost of about $4,300 next year under the house plan. An E-5 with eight years will get a $3,500 raise.

All other ranks would see the 4.5% pay increase.

But whether that plan can become law remains unclear.

House Armed Services Committee leaders have vowed to push for the military salary increases, and will vote on the measure next week. House appropriators backed similar plans in their budget bills last year and have signaled ongoing support for the idea.

But Defense Department officials have lobbied lawmakers to wait on the ideas until next year, when their ongoing review of military compensation issues is complete.

And senators — particularly those on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is currently drafting its own version of the authorization bill — have deflected questions on the issue, saying they need to see what the total costs will be and how that fits into other military priorities.

House committee officials said the price tag for the pay raise and other compensation reforms — including increasing housing stipends and broadening eligibility for the military’s Basic Needs Allowance — will cost about $4.2 billion this year. Total military spending outlined in the authorization bill is nearly $882 billion.

Even if the pay raise is signed into law later this year, appropriators will still need to pass budget language to supply funding for the higher salaries.

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.

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