Military Leaders Fighting Military Pay Raises Congress Forcing on Military

Congress really, really wants to give soldiers a 1.8 percent pay raise. Generals are begging them to hold it to 1 percent.

ray-odierno-blues

Congress really, really wants to give soldiers a 1.8 percent pay raise. Generals are begging them to hold it to 1 percent.

Army Times (“Odierno Backs Lower Pay Raise For Troops“):

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on Monday said he favors the president’s recommended 1 percent pay raise for troops over Congress’ 1.8 percent recommendation.

“That sounds like a little difference but it is a huge difference throughout the years,” Odierno said. “It’s billions of dollars … three, four, five years from now. So we think what we can do is manage the pay raises at a bit lower level for a few years.”

The chief made the comments during a question and answer session hosted by American Enterprise Institute.

Defense leaders are “not looking necessarily at pay freezes,” Odierno said, but he warned that “if we continue to have a higher level of pay raises, it is going to become really a problem for us.”

Pay and benefits are an increasing problem for a cash-strapped Pentagon. Though personal health care costs rose last year at the slowest rate in the last 50 years — a fact the White House celebrated Monday — the same cannot be said for military families. Personnel costs to include health care have more than doubled since 2001, and are on path to double again within 10 years.

It truly is a Bizzaro world. But Odierno, almost certainly correctly, figures that there’s a cap on how much Congress is going to allocate to the military. And he’d rather spend as much of that as possible on preparing the Army to fight wars.

We’ve raised troop pay at well above the inflation rate over the last decade. It was an easy call to make, given that we were in the midst of two protracted wars. Ultimately, though, it was a bad idea, creating permanent liabilities. We’d have been far better off with targeted retention bonuses and much higher hazardous duty pay while holding salaries at the rate of inflation.

It’s worth noting, too, that higher pay for the troops is actually a double whammy, in that it’s also a pay raise for the swelling ranks of retired troops who get a portion of their base pay for the rest of their life.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Nice to see fiscally conservative principles in actual practice.

  2. Butch Bracknell says:

    There’s no substitute for sober decisionmaking. I happily accepted the pay raises but recognize the liability this places on society in perpetuity. It’s time for MOAA and TROA to stop acting like trade groups and start acting like national security advocates.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Butch Bracknell: I recall a mandatory meeting back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth when our brigade commander urged all the junior officers to join USAA, since it lobbied for pay and benefits for us. Some dumbass shavetail who shall remain nameless asked how that squared with the traditions of an apolitical military and selfless service to the nation. As I recall, the question was not well received.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    Bravo, General. The key here is the bit about increased pay in the recent past. Were that not so, a 1.8% increase would be perfectly fine (or low!). Is there a graph of this somewhere, James?

    Regarding higher pay raises b/c of active wars, it seems to me the answer there is danger pay, no? I’m ignorant of how we pay our soldiers, so I could be off base here.

    More generally (public employment in general), one could look to shift over to using bonuses. A company that has a good year can give out higher bonuses, and thus it does not lock itself into generally higher salaries (upon which benefits are based). Public entities should push for that sort of model. When times are good/inflation is high/wars are being fought, one can pay public employees more, but avoid locking into substantial increases in long-term liabilities.

  5. John D'Geek says:

    @James Joyner:

    … our brigade commander urged all the junior officers to join USAA …

    Wait … the insurance company lobbied for military raises? Please tell me that’s a typo — I love USAA.

  6. Mike says:

    Now instead of urging people to join AUSA, the Army spends tens of millions of dollars a year at their conferences so that the Defense Contractors will rent exhibit space which fills their coffers to lobby for the Army. It is basically a funds transfer between the Army and AUSA but made legal.

  7. James Downey says:

    I would support a pay raise of 1% over the raises given to Federal employees not in the Military.

    How can a someone risking their life be relegated to a pay scale less than that of an individual incapable of working in the private sector, living off the government at the expense of the private sector, (the majority of government workers)? The military does not even have a pension plan on a comparative basis.

    The present batch of Generals, Admirals and “Leaders” are political hacks.

  8. bruce says:

    how about zero for E-7 and above and 1.8 for E-1 to E-6….

  9. James Downey says:

    @bruce: Agree it is hard to have more Admirals than ships. This persists among all the services.
    Perhaps some analysis of value added, conducted by a group NEUTRAL to DOD could cut the beast.
    E-6 must be your rank???

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @James Downey:

    The military does not even have a pension plan on a comparative basis.

    um, what…

    The only public employees who generally have pensions even close to being as generous as military pensions are LEOs and firefighters.

  11. Mike says:

    How about relooking the number of drivers, cooks, lear jets, helicopters and all the other perks that these GOs get? Heck SGMs now all have drivers and assistants/secretaries. The number of personnel who serve as drivers, secretaries etc… is astounding.

  12. Bennett says:

    We’d have been far better off with targeted retention bonuses and much higher hazardous duty pay while holding salaries at the rate of inflation.

    No kidding. You know what my combat pay was? $200 a month. It was like a slap to the face.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    “…How can a someone risking their life be relegated to a pay scale less than that of an individual incapable of working in the private sector, living off the government at the expense of the private sector, (the majority of government workers)?…”

    Refer to the ongoing Clinton/Weiner post.\
    This is just fictional nonsense repeated with the zeal of a religious fanatic.
    If you are not interested in factual discussions…why even bother?
    Do you actually think anyone outside your epistimological circle is going to suddenly think…

    OMG, no one in the Government could possibly work in the Public Sector!!! Why didn’t I think of that before?

    If your opinions are based on BS…then your opinions are BS.

  14. legion says:

    FYI, Manning was just found guilty of (it looks like) everything _except_ the most serious Aiding the Enemy charge. Sentencing tomorrow.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Bennett:

    Untaxed, so in actuality it equates to more than $200. Just saying.

  16. Bennett says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t come back with a hefty un-taxed bank account, esp. for a 24 year old. But the idea that being under fire almost every day for almost a year being worth only $200 a month is absurd. Either get rid of the bonus entirely (since we as servicemen are expected to be under fire I suppose), or make it an actual legit bonus.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Bennett…
    Thanks for your service.
    In the same position I probably would have drank $200 worth…a week!!!

  18. Tony W says:

    @Bennett: Perhaps being under fire is compensated at your regular pay rate – after all that’s essentially the job! That leaves the $200 as tribute for being away from your family and the hardships & expenses involved around that.

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tony W:

    No, deployed we typically got a family separation allowance and at least one form of hardship allowance (usually 2) as well, all untaxed. Those are paid in addition to combat pay. Meanwhile, back home, our BAH continued unabated. Add in that while serving in a combat zone, regular earnings are exempted from taxation as well. It’s not a small haul.

    I’m not saying that it isn’t deserved; more than we need to look at it on a total compensation basis. Regular salary was, for me, in several instances a minority of my paycheck. Meanwhile, myself and another officer formed a housing trust and bought a home in MD, paid for with our (untaxed) BAH allowances. When we sold the home and parted company due to PCS, we recouped all of that money and made a profit to boot, which also wasn’t taxed. .

  20. bruce says:

    @James Downey: \

    No I’m not on active duty…. but it’s the lower enlisted who seem to be doing all the dying… so let’s take care of the troops first.

  21. Anthony C says:

    @Rob in CT: The danger pay that you speak of is an entire $225/month for the high likelihood of being injured or killed. This General makes around $20,000 a month, base pay. It will not hurt him a bit if there is no pay raise. That will only hurt the lower enlisted. There is a ton of other things that they could cut to save money, but yet again, crush the troops that you rely on. The first ones to be financially burdened, in the federal government, whenever they have money issues are the lower enlisted in the service.