Proposed 1.4% Military Pay Raise Under Fire

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When President Obama announced a freeze on pay for federal workers, he exempted the military from the deficit-fighting measure.

Servicemembers are scheduled to receive a 1.4% salary hike in 2011.

But that raise would be their smallest annual raise since 1962 - and it may be delayed owing to Congressional battles over Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Star and Stripes reports today that with Republicans in the Senate holding up consideration of the annual national defense authorization bill (which includes a repeal of DADT), even that 1.4% increase is in jeopardy.

But a pay hike isn't the only measure in the bill that could affect servicemembers' wallets. Also included in the legislation are recruiting and enlistment bonuses; an extension of Tricare coverage for dependents of troops until age 26; increases in hostile fire and imminent danger pay; and aid to schools with high enrollment of children from military families.

Even if a stop-gap bill were to keep funds flowing to the Pentagon, the 1.4% pay increase has already come under fire.

"This is absolute garbage," Marine Corps Sgt. John Ellis told USA Today. "The U.S. government can bail out GM and other major corporations, but for us little guys who make beans for money (and) risk getting killed, these people think we don't need a raise."

The Obama Administration had considered both a 1.4% and 1.9% increase - the half-percent difference would mean an additional cost of $350 million next year, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

According to USA Today, the administration said the 1.4% hike matches the average wage increase for the private sector, and follows previous housing and food subsidy increases.

On average an Army private with no dependents earns $37,209 annually; an Army captain, $89,309.

Although the House passed a 1.9% increase, the Senate is considering the smaller figure, after the Senate Armed Services Committee (chaired by Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan) adopted the 1.4% recommendation last May.

When opponents of repealing of DADT failed to strike the provision from the authorization markup, Republicans filibustered the entire bill in September.

Poll: Two in Three Want "Don't Ask" Repeal

Retired vice admiral Norbert Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America, told USA Today that a coalition of groups is fighting for the 1.9% raise.

"This is the one group in the country that has not let this nation down," Ryan told the paper. "They are not investment bankers."