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Inflation bonus for troops?

Congress weighing the cost

In a plan released by the U.S. House of Representatives, service members earning under $45,000 per year would receive monthly inflation bonuses in 2023. DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones, U.S. Air Force

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The U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a plan on Tuesday that would provide a monthly inflation bonus in 2023 to service members and Defense Department employees who earn under $45,000 per year.

Representative Jared Golden, D-Maine, suggested that the 2.4 percent incentive be part of an amendment to the $802 billion annual defense policy bill being negotiated in Congress. The must-pass legislation - and proposed amendments - was scheduled to be debated by the House Armed Services Committee yesterday.

In a statement, Golden said that "the Department of Defense today must address expanding dangers across the globe, and those threats are only becoming more complicated."

Despite inflation running at 8 percent, committees in charge of military pay have so far approved a 4.6 percent pay increase for service members, effective in 2023. This includes the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, as it is now written by the House Armed Services Committee. The committee is expected to adopt most of President Biden administration's defense budget proposals for fiscal 2023.

Members of both parties have been expressing concern about troops who - like the rest of the American public - are feeling the effects of the rising costs of groceries, gas and other goods.

Representative Golden's proposal would not increase the basic wage hike; however, it does stipulate that inflation bonuses of 2.4 percent of a service member's or Pentagon civilian employee's base pay will be mandated for 2023.

To fund the inflation bonus, the amendment would add $800 million to military personnel accounts and $60 million to civilian personnel accounts. In sum, Golden's proposal would add approximately $37 billion to the estimated price tag of the annual policy bill.

A report from his office added that the amendment would allocate $2.5 billion for fuel inflation charges and $3.5 billion for the cost of military building inflation. A fund for military assistance to Ukraine would also receive an additional $550 million, bringing the total amount for 2023 to $1 billion.

While House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-WA. supports Biden's request, he has acknowledged the likelihood that the final NDAA signed into law will have a higher price tag than he'd like.

"We are going to wind up with an increased number," Smith said at an event last week hosted by the Defense Writers Group.

A vote on the budget is expected soon.

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