In the buildup to submitting its 2016 budget proposal this February, the Pentagon has admitted that benefits for troops will be slashed even more, continuing the downward trend over the past few years, The Hill reports.
The upcoming Pentagon budget is particularly important because it will span from 2016-2020. Apparently, for officials, the benefits are still too high. More cuts are on the way.
“We have and will continue to look at ways to slow the growth of compensation,” said Defense Department spokesman Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban on Monday. “I would expect these efforts to continue to some degree in the 2016 Defense Budget.”
Military groups are concerned, as 62,000 troops have been removed in the past three years.
And the pay raise included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of one percent — rather than 1.8 percent — feels hollow, given that housing allowances dropped by five percent and pharmaceutical co-pays increased. Some troops betrayed and frustrated, mainly because they’ve just finished fighting the longest war in the nation’s history.
“Not only has the rate of growth for personnel compensation growth slowed — it has gone negative for the last three years, from 2011 on,” said Retired Navy Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), in a recent interview with The Hill.
Since September of 2014, officials at the Pentagon have foreseen the tremendous difficulty coming down the pipe as they mull over which items to keep, and which items to cut. The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer told Reuters that he expects “very, very painful” negotiations all the way up until the budget is signed. Officials have been very quiet about the exact figures of pay and benefit reduction.
However, for internal officials anxious about disrespecting troops, recent events may provide them with a stronger case to fight for benefits. At the time the 2016 budget was originally proposed, Russia hadn’t made incursions into Ukraine, and the U.S. hadn’t deployed thousands of troops to West Africa in the fight against Ebola, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey noted in November. Recent developments in Iraq and Syria and the need to combat ISIS also puts significant pressure on the budgeting process.
Once the budget is finalized, the White House will send the budget to Congress in March 2015, which has the independent ability to examine any budget recommendations. There is a strong chance that the amount requested will exceed the budget caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, meaning that Congress will have to choose between raising the caps or slicing into the budget. According to Defense One, the Pentagon is projected to submit a $535 billion dollar plan which exceeds the cap by $35 billion dollars, a bold move which follows the trend set by the 2015 NDAA.
If Congress simply approves the request, sequestration would automatically follow, resulting in a 10 percent cut to every single defense program, with the exception of troop benefits and pay — a disaster for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman.
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