“A Senate subcommittee was given good budgetary reasons Wednesday for ending 12 consecutive years of giving service members a bigger pay increase than the average private-sector worker.
“The $350 million it would cost to provide a military raise that is one-half percentage point more than the private sector would result in about 1,000 people re-enlisting who might otherwise get out, said Carla Tighe Murray, a military compensation analyst with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
“That same $350 million, if used instead on bonuses, could provide $30,000 bonuses to 11,000 people who might otherwise leave, said William Carr, deputy defense undersecretary for military personnel policy.
“The discussion about military compensation came before the personnel subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which must decide in May whether to support the 1.4 percent military raise for 2011 requested by the Obama administration or the 1.9 percent raise pushed by major military associations. Either way, the raise would take effect Jan. 1, 2011, and would apply to all paygrades.
“The 1.4 percent raise matches the average private-sector pay raise last year, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Cost Index. The 1.9 percent raise, a half percentage point greater than the ECI, is aimed at continuing to close a perceived gap between military and civilian pay as a result of capped military raises in the 1980s. Once as large as 13.5 percent, the gap is 2 percent today as a result of 12 years of Congress mandating bigger raises.
“Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., the personnel subcommittee chairman, said he agreed with the general idea of trying to hold down the cost of raises in the face of ballooning defense budgets. He noted there are special bonuses for lawyers, pilots and surface warfare officers but none for infantry officers. “We need to make sure people not getting these special pays are adequately paid,” Webb said.
Senator Webb also heard from Brenda Farrell, Director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the Government Accountability Office, and Dr. James Hosek, Director of the Forces and Resources Policy Center at the RAND National Security Research Division.
UPDATE: More highlights from this hearing on today’s show.