Eroding More Than Pay

obama with troops


President Barack Obama sent a letter Aug. 29 notifying Congress he is using his authority to cap the active duty military pay raise at 1 percent in 2016,” reports an editorial Military Officer magazine’s November issue. “Military pay has been capped for two years, and the administrations FY2015 budget proposes to continue caps for a total of six years.”

Inflation has been mild recently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 1.8 pay raise would be called for according to its Economic Cost Index (ECI), by which pay raises are normally determined. While some Social Security recipients complain about their 1.7% increase in 2015, they at least get the full amount.

What’s the big deal over the less-than-a-percent difference? Two things:

One, it breaks faith with the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our country. Ignoring the extra costs of military service, no wage matches the risk of their profession.

Second, cumulative caps—like negative compound interest—erode their buying power in the future, even with “normal” pay raises.

Military members serving in the 1990s experienced this, to the point where their wages were more than ten percent below the ECI. Even though a “catch up” pay raise was implemented in the early 2000s, the damage for service members retiring during the 90s was permanent. Their retired pay, based on their base pay the day they retired, is permanently depressed by ten percent. No catch up for them.

The high tempo of operations our men and women are experiencing leads to obvious issues like fatigue, crippling injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it also dulls the edge of our national sword. Troops have been sent back to Iraq then Afghanistan over and over. The strain on themselves and their families is tremendous.

What are we telling the men and women who serve when we cap their pay? We want them as a rent-a-crowd behind the Commander-in-Chief for photo ops, but they don’t deserve a living wage for putting their lives on the line? We want them to redeploy to war zones over and over, but those who serve whole careers of turmoil and stress on behalf of their country are doomed to depressed retired compensation?

Is it too much to ask the President and Congress to give the men and women of the armed services a decent wage next year and all those which follow?