Congress Divided on Pay and BAH

July 7, 2017

The Armed Services committees of the House and Senate finalized their draft defense bills. The House proposes a 2.4-percent pay raise, consistent with the Employment Cost Index; the Senate is calling for 2.1 percent, consistent with the budget request submitted by DoD. 

If the Senate's version is passed, it will mean about $58 less in pay each year for junior enlisted, $118 less for senior enlisted, and $178 less for new field-grade officers. This 0.3 percent difference also would widen the cumulative gap between military pay and private-sector growth to 2.9 percent. 

While the House does not reference Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) in its bill, the Senate includes a reduction in BAH for dual-military marriages where dependents are involved. The plan is to eliminate the with-dependent rate for one of the two spouses. The details will be clearer once the Senate releases its bill next week. While the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was closed to the public, some reporters were granted access and have shared some significant information with MOAA in advance of the bill's release. 

“Any attempt to garner funds through reductions in pay or allowances is quite concerning,” says Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), vice president of Government Relations at MOAA. “It is our government's responsibility to fund operations, readiness, and personnel costs - putting those costs on the backs of the member and their families is just not right.” 

This is not the first time we have seen an attempt at culling funds from BAH accounts at the expense of those currently serving. The impact goes beyond affected families - it also has a direct effect on communities with a military presence. 

Take a look at the losses for an O-3 and O-5 across the five largest military installations in the U.S. as a result of the Senate bill's BAH reduction proposal, using the 2017 pay charts:

O3 070717

O5 070717

The current military compensation system has been reviewed and studied, most recently by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), which completed its report in January 2015 and recommended no changes to the system. 

In the coming year, the secretary of defense will conduct a congressionally mandated Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation (QRMC). The QRMC will review the potential for a one-salary system that takes into account allowances like BAH. 

Targeting BAH now for any level of cuts preempts the QRMC and bypasses the level of analysis necessary to avoid unintended consequences.

Time is running out on what you can do to help. House lawmakers are scheduled to vote on their version of the defense bill on July 14. Senate aides confirmed to MOAA they anticipate a floor vote on their version of the bill the following week.

Contact your members of Congress today to avoid this ill-conceived and poorly timed plan.


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