Bush Administration Nixes Army Pay Raises

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[Employment]
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.

Bush also threatened to veto the bill because of provisions in it which required the military to buy American products, citing such a process as "arduous".

The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

“When combined with the overall military benefit package, the president’s proposal provides a good quality of life for service members and their families,” the policy statement says. “While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the 3 percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that.”

The House of Representatives plans on passing the bill tomorrow. The Senate Armed Services Committee has announced it will start writing its version of the bill next week.

Two items in the House defense bill could lead to a veto, the policy statement warns. One is a change in the National Security Personnel system that would back away from the pay-for-performance initiative pushed by the Bush administration and reverse some of the flexibility provided in current law. The second issue that could prompt a veto are Buy America provisions in the bill that White House officials said “would impose unrealistically arduous requirements.”

In addition to the pay raise, there are other personnel initiatives in the bill that the White House opposes.

A prohibition on converting medical jobs held by military members into civilian positions drew opposition. “This will eliminate the flexibility of the Secretary of Defense to use civilian medical personnel for jobs away from the battlefield and at the same time use the converted military billets to enhance the strength of operating units,” the policy statement says.

A death gratuity for federal civilian employees who die in support of military operations, and new benefits for disabled retirees and the survivors of military retirees also drew complaints.

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