Why Military Pay Remains a Servicemember and MOAA Priority
Photo by Senior Airman Javier Alvarez/Air Force
This article discusses a key part of MOAA's Storming the Hill 2019. For more, visit our Storming the Hill page.
Servicemembers are in line for their largest raise in 10 years, but as with all budget items, there are no guarantees.
President Donald Trump's budget proposal calls for a 3.1 percent increase in military basic pay. The figure matches the Employment Cost Index (ECI) from October 2018, the established benchmark lawmakers should use to set the raise servicemembers receive on Jan. 1, 2020.
With the budget request and the ECI in agreement, servicemembers and their families can breathe easy, right? Not exactly.
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Legislators to Protect Military Pay and Benefits]
MOAA has long made the protection of military pay and benefits a top priority. The issue will be one of three core advocacy elements to this year's Storming the Hill event, where MOAA members from across the nation will make their top issues known to representatives in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the reasons why:
- CBO concerns: Pay caps -- holding the basic military pay raise below the ECI -- aren't off the budget radar. December's Congressional Budget Office report on ways to reduce the federal deficit includes a suggestion to “cap basic pay raises for military service members at 0.5 percentage points below the increase in the ECI for five years starting in 2020 and then return them to the ECI benchmark in 2025.” Lawmakers looking to free up funds, or DoD officials seeking to shuffle their budgets, could see the CBO report as cover for a move that could prove costly to servicemembers and their families.
- Health of the force: Fair compensation is an element of readiness -- underpaying servicemembers will lead to the loss of well-qualified, well-trained men and women, and that means a less-secure nation. As services struggle with recruiting goals, and as retention experts try to figure out what the new Blended Retirement System will mean to retaining the best talent, the last thing the military can afford is a decrease in overall benefits for its members.
- Beyond basic pay: Even if the 3.1 percent raise goes into effect, servicemembers still could see reductions in other benefits, including their retirement contributions and housing allowances, and their purchasing power at commissaries and military exchanges. Their families also could face increases in TRICARE fees. An impressive top-line figure is a good start, but it's not enough to ensure military families receive all of the benefits earned by service.
For these reasons and others, MOAA is not content simply to hope that good economic indicators and preliminary budget proposals will combine to protect military compensation. Too much is at stake to remain on the sidelines; MOAA will continue to work with the White House, the DoD, and with lawmakers to solidify a 3.1 percent pay raise in FY 2020 and protect other benefits from becoming budget targets.