September 4, 2015
President Obama sent a disappointing letter to
Congressional leaders last week stating that he plans to use his executive
authority to cap military pay for the third consecutive year.
In 2014 and 2015, pay raises were
capped at 1 percent. The president intends to cap 2016 pay raises at 1.3
percent, instead of the 2.3 percent raise called for by law.
The troops’ last four raises averaged
less than 1.4 percent, with the FY14 and FY15 pay raises being the lowest in 50
In his letter, Obama said that he is,
“strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made
such great contributions to our Nation over the past decade of war.” However,
he insisted that this move is necessary to, “maintain efforts to keep our
Nation on a sustainable fiscal course.”
DoD leadership came out in support of
the president’s announcement, insisting that the pay cap is needed to support
modernization and training.
Several years of capping pay below
private sector wage growth took place during the 1980’s and 90’s, until
servicemembers faced a 13.5 percent pay gap. Because recruitment and retention
ultimately suffered, Congress spent a decade trying to fix the issue by
providing pay raises above the Employment Cost Index (ECI). After coming within
2.5 percent of pay parity in 2013, DoD and Congress considered the issue
Now it looks like all of the hard work
Congress did is unwinding. A third year of pay caps expands the difference
between pay in the military and private sector to 5 percent. And with four more
years of DoD-proposed caps, it will get much worse.
Three years of pay caps really add up.
An E-5 with ten years of service will receive about $976 less annually. For an
O-3 with 10 years, it will be about $1,870.
“Although Congress and the administration are
under pressure from budget restrictions, this is incredibly disappointing,”
said MOAA Director of Government Relations, Col Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret). “Past
experience with capping military raises below private sector pay growth has
shown that once pay raise caps begin, they continue until they undermine retention
and readiness of the all-volunteer force.”
Military pay comparability only works when
it’s sustained through both good and bad budget times.