Defense

House lawmakers want military pay raise for enlisted troops

The top two lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee want to "significantly" increase service members' pay and benefits as part of next year's defense spending bill.

Committee ranking member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) said proposals to boost compensation and benefits for troops will be a top priority as he and Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) put together the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2022.

"One of the things that Chairman Adam Smith and I have been talking about, and we intend to lean into in this next year, is significantly increasing compensation and benefits packages, particularly for enlisted personnel," Rogers said at a think tank event Wednesday.

"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," he added. "So you're going to see us making some efforts to address some of those concerns."

Rogers did not provide further details on such a plan.

Asked about Rogers's comments, a spokesperson for Smith told The Hill that he will look "to ensure we have the right mix of pay and benefits."

"Taking care of our service-members and their families is an integral component of the readiness and resiliency of the Joint Force," spokesperson Monica Matoush said in a statement.

"We will be looking at next year's defense budget to ensure we have the right mix of pay and benefits to attract, recruit and retain the most talented military in the world. We will also keep options open if we perceive there may be a shortfall that would negatively affect service-members and their families."

House and Senate lawmakers are currently in the midst of finalizing this year's NDAA, which includes a 2.7 percent pay raise for all troops beginning Jan. 1, as recommended by the White House.

The military has had pay raises that matched private sector increases every year for the past five years, but experts say service members are still behind their civilian counterparts due to smaller raises from 2014 to 2017.

Currently, the most junior enlisted troops earn well below $15 an hour, making only about $20,000 in base pay annually.

This year's NDAA includes language that would create a "Basic Needs Allowance" to help low-income troops boost their take-home dollar, particularly on food. But Rogers said Congress needs to make sure military staffing is maintained, particularly after the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan.

"People have to remember, we've been through two decades of war. We've worn everything we've got out, including manpower," he said. "We need to make sure that we always have a professional military that's vibrant and is capable."

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