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House Approves 2.1% Troop Pay Raise in 2017

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a 2.1 percent pay raise next year for troops.

The measure was included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which the lower chamber overwhelmingly backed by a vote of 375-34. The massive $619 billion bill sets policy and spending goals for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

"This bipartisan bill focuses on our troops, America’s most important national defense resource," Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

"It provides them a full pay raise for the first time in four years, it stops layoffs of our military personnel and actually increases the end strength of our Armed Forces, and it starts to stabilize the readiness problems that are making it more difficult for our troops to accomplish their mission and increasingly represent a danger to their lives," he added. "It contains landmark reforms to improve our military’s strength and agility."

House negotiators successfully convinced their Senate counterparts to agree to a higher pay raise for service members in 2017.

The Senate had agreed with the White House to increase troop pay next year by 1.6 percent. The House, however, pushed for a 2.1 percent increase in pay in keeping with private-sector wage growth. Lawmakers in the lower chamber noted the alternative would have marked the fourth straight year troops would have seen a lower-than-expected raise.

By law, military pay hikes are supposed to track wage growth in the private sector as measured by the government's Employment Cost Index (ECI). The basic pay hike in 2016 was capped at 1.3 percent, a full percentage point below the level pegged by the ECI; and in both 2014 and 2015 at 1 percent when 1.8 percent was needed to match wage hikes nationwide, according to Military.com contributor Tom Philpott.

For an E-5 with four years of service, the higher raise next year would translate into an extra $48 a month, for a total of $2,315 in basic pay; for an O-3, it would mean another $117 a month, for a total of $5,683 in monthly pay, according to a basic calculation using 2016 pay tables from the Pentagon's Defense Finance and Accounting Services.

The Senate is expected to vote on the defense bill next week.

It appears less likely President Barack Obama will try to veto the legislation, given the lower chamber's strong support for it. The president and members of his cabinet, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, have previously threatened to reject the measure over the level of war funding, among other areas of disagreements.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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