Congress Approves 2.1% Troop Pay Raise in 2017

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The U.S. Senate on Thursday joined the House of Representatives in approving a 2.1 percent pay raise next year for troops.

The upper chamber passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the pay increase, by a vote of 92-7.

The House last week approved the legislation by a veto-proof majority of 375-34. The bill now heads to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature.

The $619 billion authorization act includes $611 billion for programs overseen by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, including $524 billion for base defense spending, $68 billion for war funding and almost $20 billion for other national security programs.

The legislation would add funding for more troops, training and munitions. It would scrap a proposal buy more fighter jets than the Pentagon requested, not require women to register for the draft and keep intact housing allowances for military couples.

"This bill begins a turnaround for our national security and our military, halting eight years of personnel cuts and a dramatic decline in readiness," Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

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.

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 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 Service.

The military pay raise applies to basic pay for troops. It is separate from the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for veterans, military retirees and recipients of VA disability compensation. That figure, based on the Consumer Price Index, is set for 0.3 percent in 2017.

For complete active duty and reserve pay charts, as well as a pay app to keep you up to date on pay benefits and news, visit the Pay section.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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