The military would receive $1 million to rename Army bases currently honoring Confederate leaders, full funding for a 3 percent pay raise next year and enough financial flexibility for a 12,000-person boost in active-duty end strength under a budget plan to be voted on by a House panel Tuesday morning.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee are scheduled to debate the nearly $695 billion defense spending measure for fiscal 2021 during a public mark-up then, less than a week after lawmakers debated the funding basics behind closed doors. Details of the Democratic-lead plan were formally released Monday.
In a statement, House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., praised the plan as building upon past efforts “regarding the morale and quality of life issues of those in uniform, their families, DoD civilians, and defense communities.”
The measure goes along with White House plans (and those of House and Senate Armed Services Committee members) for a 3 percent pay raise, equal to the federal formula to keep military salaries on pace with civilian wages.
For junior enlisted troops, the proposed raise would amount to roughly $860 more a year in pay. For senior enlisted and junior officers, the hike equals about $1,500 more. An O-4 with 12 years service would see more than $2,800 extra next year under the increase.
House members also included $22.3 billion for the procurement of nine new Navy ships (12 percent above the White House request) and $450 million for coronavirus pandemic response efforts.
And the plan largely matches the administration’s request for active-duty end strength increases, with big boosts for the Army (5,900) and Navy (7,300) in particular. The extra personnel would add about $7.5 billion in costs next fiscal year.
But the plan could still draw the ire of administration officials because of several changes from the president’s budget request in February. Chief among them is the inclusion of the Confederate base names issue, on which President Donald Trump has already promised a veto of any legislation including forced changes.
Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees’ drafts of the annual defense authorization bill have provisions requiring changes to at least 10 bases named for Confederate leaders, including locations such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, and Fort Benning in Georgia.
The House appropriators’ plan includes $1 million for “the renaming of installations, facilities, roads and streets that bear the name of confederate leaders and officers, since the Army has the preponderance of the entities to change.”
The bill also excludes about $20 million in requested funds for Trump’s controversial southern border wall project, and does not backfill funds for military construction projects from which the White House transferred money last year.
Lawmakers could further provoke the White House with additional amendments on Tuesday. The full House is expected to vote on the budget bill later this month, but final passage is unlikely before the November elections.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.