Fully funding America’s secret weapon: Paying our servicemembers what they deserve
There is not a single weapon system in our inventory that is as important as our service members and their families.
Recently, the far left has put up a fight to ensure that all federal employees earn a minimum of $15 an hour. From congressional employees to other federal bureau employees, to even contracted workers. Every federal employee, no exceptions. But there is one critical group left out: Our servicemembers. The Democratic majority offered a slight 4.6 percent raise to our servicemembers last month, but this insufficient raise in the midst of an 8.5 percent inflationary period is back breaking. We must treat our servicemembers just as we treat other federal employees.
So, I ask my colleagues: Why not the military? Servicemembers are the first in line to defend our country, they should be the first in line for a pay raise.
As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, which is tasked with ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are properly appropriated, I have repeatedly led the charge in advocating for sufficient military funding. During the committee markup of the Department of Defense fiscal year 2023 bill in June, I once again took the lead in calling for a base pay raise for servicemembers. My proposed amendment would require the Department of Defense to increase base pay to a minimum of $15 an hour, amounting to $31,200 a year, for all servicemembers. While this call for a basic pay raise was met with bipartisan support in the committee markup, the bulk of Democrats in the room ultimately decided to strike it down.
I write today not just as a former naval fighter pilot, but as a grateful American who appreciates all that our active servicemembers do to keep us safe, day and night.
During my time in the Navy, I witnessed the burdens that many military families endure. Today, the same struggle remains for many of our brave patriots in uniform. Some 23,000 active servicemembers are facing food insecurities, many relying on food stamps just to put food on the table because of unsustainably low base pay. That is 23,000 soldiers too many. Those who fight to protect our country should never have to worry about making ends meet.
In Washington, I have remained focused on supporting our servicemembers through efforts to ease some of those burdens and improve services to those men and women who protect our nation.
This should not be a partisan issue. Democrats on the committee had already included provisions for contractors to receive a minimum wage salary, but most Democrats refuse the same pay raise for our servicemembers.
We have an all-volunteer force and if we want the best troops, we need to attract that talent with adequate compensation. In this modern world with more complex domains, we’re fighting multiple threats with sophisticated technologies. Poor military retention and recruitment is a direct threat to our national security, and we must be proactive before it’s too late.
A pledge to serve one’s country should never include living in poverty. If the government is paying for our servicemembers to live on food stamps, we may as well pay them on the front end through base pay. The raise I am calling for is the least we can do for our servicemembers given the current inflationary period. The 4.6 percent military pay raise proposed by the Democrat majority is insufficient, which is why I stood up for our patriots with this amendment.
I remain a steadfast leader on this issue, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in standing up to serve the patriots who serve our country and support a base pay raise for our servicemembers.
Rep. Mike Garcia represents California’s 25th District and is a member of the Appropriations Committee.