Two senators on Wednesday introduced a bill aimed at boosting pay rates for enlisted personnel by requiring presidents to go by the Employment Cost Index in recommending raises.
The bill proposed by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, would also correct what they called "discrepancies" resulting in different pay rates for senior enlisted personnel of the same rank and equal responsibilities.
"Except for seven senior enlisted positions, enlisted personnel do not receive a pay increase as their responsibility levels grow, creating great discrepancies," the two senators said in a joint statement.
"For example, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff [Gen. Joseph Dunford] gets paid more than the senior enlisted adviser to the commander of Pacific Command [Adm. Harry Harris], even though they both are of the same rank with equivalent levels of responsibility," the two senators said.
In addition, the senators said that presidents of both parties for years have skirted the mandate that pay raises for enlisted personnel should match the Employment Cost Index -- "unless the president cites economic concerns or a national emergency."
"Unfortunately, previous presidents have cited economic concerns to deny troops their pay raise while simultaneously claiming a growing economy publicly," the two senators said.
They said that the current 2.1 percent proposed pay raise for service members in President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 budget "does not match the Employment Cost Index," which would call for a 2.4 percent increase.
The senators said that their bill, called The Leadership Recognition Act, "addresses these discrepancies by ensuring fair compensation among senior enlisted advisers and removes the president's ability to block pay raises by citing economic concerns."
The language of the bill on senior enlisted personnel, if enacted, states that "the rate of monthly basic pay for senior enlisted adviser to the commanders of the combatant commands shall be equivalent to the rate of monthly basic pay for the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
Ernst and Warren said their proposal has received support from the American Legion, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, and the Military Officers Association of America.
"Senior enlisted service members carry a great responsibility leading our men and women on and off the battlefield, and we must ensure they receive appropriate compensation as we seek to retain them and strengthen our military," Ernst said in a statement.
Warren said that enlisted personnel "know they won't get rich in the military, but they serve with skill and dedication, and they are entitled to basic pay increases that will give them a chance to build some economic security."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.