House lawmakers will look at boosting service members’ pay “significantly” in coming years as part of their annual defense budget discussions in 2022, according to the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. and ranking member of the panel, said during a Heritage Foundation event on Wednesday that the issue of military pay will be a top priority in next year’s discussions, both for Republicans and Democrats on the committee.
“One of the things that Chairman Adam Smith and I have been talking about — and we intend to lean into next year — is significantly increasing compensation and benefits packages, particularly for enlisted personnel,” he said.
“We want to maintain a professional military and we need to compensate them as professionals. And we aren’t doing that right now, particularly in the enlisted ranks. So you’re going to see us making some efforts to address some of those concerns.”
Rogers’ office did not answer requests for specifics on what those compensation changes will include.
House and Senate lawmakers are currently finalizing plans for the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill, which includes a 2.7 percent pay increase for all troops. That follows both the White House recommendation for the military pay boost and the federal formula for annual increases, based on the growth of salaries in the private sector.
For junior enlisted troops, the raise will amount to roughly $790 more a year in pay over 2021 levels. For senior enlisted and junior officers, it’s about $1,400 more. An O-4 with 12 years service would see more than $2,600 extra next year.
The military has seen pay raises matching the rate of civilian sector boosts for the last five years. However, outside advocates have argued that troops still lag behind their non-military peers in take-home pay, because of smaller raises in the past.
In July, during the House Appropriations Committee’s mark-up of the fiscal 2022 defense budget bill, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., proposed adding language to the measure that would ensure all troops receive a base pay of at least $31,200 a year, roughly the equivalent of $15 an hour. The proposal was rejected because of legislative conflict issues.
Currently, the most junior enlisted troops earn about $20,000 in base pay. An E3 with less than three years experience brings home about $27,000 a year, still under that $15 an hour mark.
That figure does not include other military compesation, such as housing and education allowances, which also factor into troops’ total military compensation.
At Wednesday’s event, Rogers said the pay issue was one of several Congress needs to deal with to recognize the strain and sacrifices of today’s troops.
“People have to remember that we’ve been through two decades of war,” he said. “We’ve worn everything we’ve got out, including our manpower.”
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.