Will coronavirus budget crackdown put military pay raise at risk?

Service members are on track for 3% pay bump in 2021

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The unanticipated costs associated with the coronavirus crisis have called the military budget into question for fiscal 2021, but a prominent lawmaker said Thursday the members of the armed services should still get the raises they are anticipating.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said during a press call he believes the expected 3 percent raise will be implemented in 2021, as first reported by The Military Times.

In 2020, members received a 3.1 percent pay bump, which was the first time since 2010 that pay increased by more than 3 percent. Last year military pay increased by 2.6 percent and 2.4 percent in 2018.

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Annual raises are typically determined by the Employment Cost Index, which measures increases in private-sector wages and salaries. However, Congress or the president can opt to enact a different pay raise.

For example, the Obama administration capped pay raises for the military, so salaries grew slower than private-sector wages during some years.

A 3 percent increase would raise yearly salaries for enlisted personnel to more than $63,000, with officers earning an average of nearly $116,000 including stipends and allowances.

The proposed defense budget for fiscal 2021 is $741 billion.

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A spokesperson for Thornberry confirmed to FOX Business that his comments on pay were made as part of a broader discussion about the military’s budget and whether the Pentagon should be forced to absorb coronavirus-related costs or receive supplemental funding. Thornberry favors the supplemental funding route.

As previously reported by FOX Business, historically, defense spending has been one of the first items cut when the federal deficit has swelled – most recently with the Budget Control Act of 2011. So far, the government has spent around $3 trillion on stimulus measures to combat the effects of the virus.

Still, many Republicans are calling for increased funding to head off what they view as a variety of security-related problems, including funding military suppliers to preventing China from assuming a more dominant position in the Indo-Pacific region.

Democrats, however, are less keen on seeing military spending included in the next round of stimulus legislation.

California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, for example, tweeted that the Pentagon shouldn’t get any relief money.

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