August 28, 2013
Issue: Uniformed service members' basic pay must be
reasonably comparable with private sector pay scales and adjusted annually as
necessary to restore/maintain comparability with private sector pay increases.
Background: Military pay tables were overhauled in 1971 with the advent of
the all-volunteer force to set military pay rates at levels of reasonable
comparability with private sector pay for civilian workers with similar skills,
education and experience. But military raises were capped for budgetary reasons
during the 1970s, and serious retention and readiness shortfalls followed.
These problems were addressed with double-digit raises in 1981 and 1982, which
were generally acknowledged to have restored military pay to levels
"reasonably comparable" with private sector pay.
Despite this hard-learned lesson, the extended retention rebound of the 1980's,
coupled with rising budget deficits, led multiple Administrations and Congress
to continue capping military raises below private sector pay growth, as
measured by the government’s Employment Cost Index (ECI) in 12 of the next 16
years. By 1999, the cumulative military pay raise shortfall had reached
13.5%--predictably accompanied by a new retention and readiness crisis.
Congress responded with law changes aimed at closing the pay gap over a period
of years. The Executive Branch and Congress subsequently have approved military
pay raises at least .5% above private sector pay growth for most of the last
Together with housing allowance improvements, MOAA believes Congress’ actions
have restored general pay comparability.
The challenge now is to sustain military pay raises equal to private-sector pay
growth during projected periods of budget austerity.
Past experience in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s has been that tight budgets have
driven caps on military pay raises, and that those caps have continued until
they undermine retention and readiness.
MOAA’s hope is that we can learn from past experience that sustaining pay
comparability is important to prevent retention problems.
Key Bills:The Administration proposed in their FY 2014 Budget Submission a pay cap of 1.0% that falls below that of private sector pay growth. The House has proposed a 1.8% raise in their version of the FY14 NDAA while the Senate Armed Services Committee supports the Administration’s 1.0% proposal. Click here to send your legislators a MOAA-prepared message to protect the troops’ pay raise.
MOAA Position: MOAA believes sustaining comparability with
private sector pay is a fundamental underpinning of the all-volunteer force,
and is essential for long-term retention and readiness and will work with
Congress to prevent repeating past hard-learned lessons.