A key House panel is looking to create a new bonus for junior service members who are "adversely" affected by the economy in its annual defense policy bill, according to a copy of the bill obtained by Military.com ahead of its release.
In addition to the new bonus, the House Armed Services Committee military personnel subcommittee's portion of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, would allow for greater flexibility in adjusting the Basic Allowance for Housing to respond to market conditions and exclude the housing allowance from income calculations for a stipend to help food insecure troops.
The NDAA would also create a Space National Guard, something House lawmakers have supported in previous years but which has failed to gain traction in the Senate.
An annual raise in basic pay for service members, which is sometimes included in the military personnel subcommittee's portion of the NDAA, will be in the full committee's portion of the bill this year, a congressional aide told Military.com. The administration has proposed a 5.2% pay raise for troops.
The proposal for a bonus for service members hurting from the economy is similar to an idea in last year's House NDAA for an "inflation bonus" for troops. The inflation bonuses were ultimately scuttled from the version of the bill signed into law after negotiations with the Senate.
While inflation has cooled in recent months, lawmakers have still expressed concern that pay for junior enlisted service members has not kept pace with the economy. Amid recruiting struggles, military officials have pointed to the fact that some entry-level service industry jobs offer a more competitive salary than the military.
This year's House NDAA would allow E-6s and below to receive a monthly bonus throughout 2024 if their service secretary "determines that prevailing economic conditions may adversely affect an eligible member," according to the text of the bill. The bill would also give secretaries the latitude to set the rate of the bonus.
The bill would also strike some language from the law that governs the Basic Allowance for Housing. Doing so would "allow for more flexibility in the BAH calculation to be in line with market conditions," the congressional aide said. Lawmakers worry that the housing stipend has not kept pace with increasingly competitive and pricey housing markets around the country.
A summary included in the bill text also said the change in BAH would mean junior enlisted personnel have greater parity in how their allowance is calculated compared to higher paygrades.
House lawmakers will also try again this year to create a Space National Guard. For the last two years, the House Armed Services Committee has added amendments to the NDAA to create a National Guard component dedicated to space, making its inclusion in the underlying bill a slight change from the past.
Those past efforts have run into opposition with the Senate and the White House, which has argued that a Space National Guard would create a costly layer of bureaucracy. After negotiations with the Senate, last year's NDAA that was signed into law required the Space Force to research the idea of allowing Guardians to serve part-time on active duty rather than creating a Space Guard.
The military personnel subcommittee is scheduled to consider its portion of the NDAA on Tuesday. The full House Armed Services Committee will debate the bill June 21.
-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.