Proposed Biden Defense Budget Includes Largest Military Pay Raise In Decades

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Military servicemembers and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian personnel would receive an average 5.2% pay raise in President Joe Biden’s budget request for 2024, released Thursday.

The proposed pay increase is the largest in more than 20 years and comes as members of Congress worry that up to 25% of military servicemembers report facing food insecurity, according to a statement from DOD and research from the RAND Corporation, a government contractor. It’s also larger in percentage terms than the pay raise authorized in the budget for 2023, but well below average inflation rates.

“[The] budget provides an average pay increase of 5.2% for civilian and military personnel — and answers the president’s call for agencies to lead by example in supporting federal worker organizing and collective bargaining,” the Biden budget states. (RELATED: ‘Boondoggles Of Spending’: Military Personnel Are Struggling To Get By As Pentagon Budget Falls Short)

DOD said the budget would promote a “lethal, resilient, survivable, agile, and responsive” force in the statement.

A summary of the budget includes annual rate increases for housing and basic needs allowances, with a more specific breakdown set to become available from the Pentagon on Monday.

“This is a strategy-informed budget,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement. “This budget invests in taking care of our people with the largest military pay raise in over 20 years, and the largest civilian pay raise in over 40 years.”

However, both Democrats and Republicans have argued that military pay raises should keep pace with inflation.

“While Congress was able to deliver a 4.6% across the board pay increase to all service members, I believe it may be time we consider reevaluating whether there are additional ways that could help deliver important support to our servicemembers and their families,” House Armed Services Committee ranking member Andy Kim of New Jersey said in his opening remarks at a hearing on military personnel and quality of life Tuesday.

Republican Rep. Mike Waltz of Florida, a retired Army officer, concurred, saying he hoped for a measure tying military pay to inflation rates.

While Congress authorized a 4.2% pay raise in the defense budget for 2023, a separate Basic Needs Allowance provision only benefited a very small percentage of servicemembers, Kim said.

Democrats in Congress have also advocated for an even larger pay raise, according to Government Executive. Legislation Democratic Rep. Gerry Conolly of Virginia and Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz introduced separately in January would provide an average 8.7% raise for all federal employees.

“With inflation affecting everything from gas prices to groceries to rent, some Soldiers and their families are finding it harder to get by on the budgets they’ve set and used before,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston said in August.

Biden’s proposed defense spending tops out at $842 billion, $26 billion higher than enacted for fiscal year 2023 and exceeding expectations.

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