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Senate Panel Backs 2.1% Troop Pay Raise, House Panel Wants 2.4%

FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, file photo, an American flag flies over Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016, file photo, an American flag flies over Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The Senate Armed Services Committee backed the 2.1 percent military pay raise proposed by the White House, compared to the 2.4 percent increase suggested by the House Armed Services Committee earlier this week.

The summary of the Senate committee's markup for the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018 states the bill would authorize "a 2.1 percent across-the-board pay raise for members of the Armed Forces."

However, the Senate version of the bill did include a proposal from Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., that would require presidents in future years to tie pay raises to the Employment Cost Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure is 2.4 percent for the 12-month period through March, according to BLS.

The overall proposal backed by the committee's chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and ranking member Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, calls for total defense spending in fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, of $700 billion compared to the $696.5 billion proposed by the House committee Monday.

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The Senate committee's summary of the bill said it backed a $640 billion base budget for the Defense Department and the national security programs of the Energy Department. The bill would also authorize $60 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, the so-called war budget to fund operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

"In sum, the NDAA supports a national defense topline of $700 billion," the summary states.

The House and Senate will begin negotiations on a final version of the NDAA after the July 4 recess.

In a statement, McCain said, "The NDAA starts the process of rebuilding our military after six years of devastating cuts to our defense budget. By supporting $640 billion for defense, this legislation begins to address the readiness shortfall, crisis in modernization, and eroding military advantage by recapitalizing and reinvesting in our forces."

Both the Senate and House proposals went well beyond the White House baseline defense budget of $603 billion and also well beyond the budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which mandates that increases in defense spending be matched by increases in domestic spending. Under BCA, the baseline defense budget would be $549 billion.

House and Senate leaders have called on Congress to lift the BCA restrictions, which would take 60 votes in the Senate under current rules. In a statement, Reed said, "Ultimately, a strong national defense and a strong economy both depend on Congress equitably resolving the Budget Control Act caps and sequestration, which is outside this committee's jurisdiction."

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking House Armed Services Committee member, said, "Right now, we're just hoping" that BCA will be repealed. "We're doing the $696 billion, and we're hoping that between now and Oct. 1 some path that at the moment is completely blocked and completely unforeseen is going to emerge."

The Senate committee's summary said the Trump administration's "request of $603 billion for the base defense budget was a step in the right direction, but it is insufficient to undo the damage of the last six years. Ultimately, the solution must be to repeal or revise the BCA, and the committee urges Congress to do so immediately."

-- Editor's note: This story was updated in the third paragraph to clarify that Sens. Ernst and Warren called for linking military pay raises with the ECI, not by a specific percentage.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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Headlines Congress Military Pay Defense Budget Legislation Richard Sisk

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