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Service group: Senate bill 'disappointing' on military benefits

Service group: Senate bill 'disappointing' on military benefits
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A key service organization is criticizing a Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel for its changes to troop pay and benefits in the annual defense policy bill.

“The subcommittee mark is very disappointing,” retired Navy Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America, said in a statement.

On Wednesday the Armed Services Personnel subcommittee approved draft legislation that includes a benefits overhaul proposed by a blue-ribbon compensation commission. The plan would switch from the current retirement system, which only benefits those who serve for at least 20 years, to a 401(k)-style plan for troops who serve at least two years.

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“We’ve asked the SASC subcommittee to wait and hear from the Pentagon before etching in stone a new retirement system,” Ryan said. “It’s critical to the health of the all-volunteer career force to get this right from the very start.”

The House’s version of the 2016 national defense authorization act (NDAA), which is expected to pass the chamber this week, also includes the revamp. 

The White House has threatened to veto the defense policy bill, raising concerns about a number of other measures and calling for more time to study the blue ribbon panel's recommendations.

The Senate measure also recommends a 1.3 percent pay increase for troops, as opposed to the 2.3 percent hike put forward in the House draft.

Ryan said the “right solution is a bill that not only addresses funding for equipment and training but also delivers the appropriate level of pay and benefits needed to sustain the nation’s all-volunteer force.”

“If these proposals prevail, they would equate to thousands of dollars in reduced purchasing power for the key mid-grade NCOs and officers, harming the very people DOD needs to retain,” he added. 

The full Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to finish hammering out the massive policy blueprint later this week.

This story was updated on May 15 at 10:07 a.m.