In 2025, pay raises could range from 2% to 20%

Both chambers are now on board with the idea of an extra pay raise for junior military members, but House measures target civilian workforce

As details of DoD’s 2025 budget get hammered out, it’s looking increasingly likely that service members at the bottom end of the military pay scale will see a substantial pay bump next year. But the picture is far less rosy for civilian employees, particularly in the House’s funding measures.

This year’s budget cycle shows clear bicameral support for junior enlisted pay raises that would go above and beyond the 4.5% pay raise President Biden proposed for all military members in 2025 — it’s really just a matter of degree.

By far, the most generous variants are in the House’s 2025 defense authorization and appropriations bills. The former gained full House approval earlier this month; the latter heads to the floor this week. Both would give additional 15% pay raises to service members in the E-1 through E-3 pay grades amid concerns that the military services — the Army and Navy in particular — aren’t attracting enough new recruits.

For those junior members, the 2025 raise would total 19.5%, easily the biggest military pay raise since 1949, according to historical figures detailed in DoD budget documents.

“Too many military families are relying on food banks, SNAP, and WIC in order to put food on the table,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Republicans and Democrats on our committee agreed this is unacceptable. The committee’s decision to give junior enlisted servicemembers a targeted 15% pay raise is based on research conducted by our bipartisan Quality of Life Panel in collaboration with the Department of Defense.”

Senate also endorses junior enlisted boost

The Senate is further behind in the budgeting process: it hasn’t yet started on a defense appropriations bill, and the text of the NDAA the Senate Armed Services Committee approved behind closed doors hasn’t yet been made public. But according to the committee, that bill would also authorize an extra 1% bump for junior enlisted pay grades, for a total of 5.5% in 2025.

In all cases though, the legislation passed so far matches the Biden Administration’s proposal for just a 2% pay raise for civilian employees, their smallest since 2021, when civilian workers got a 1% increase.

“While I would have liked to see higher pay raises for our civilian workforce, the Fiscal Responsibility Act that we were forced to adopt to keep the government open back in 2023 sharply cut into the civilian pay raises,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass.), the chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.

And back in the House, there are other ominous signs for the civilian workforce.

Aside from a pay raise that’s less than half of what military members would get in 2025, the appropriations bill the House is taking up this week includes measures that would, if enacted, almost certainly lead to a downsizing of the workforce and severe restrictions on telework and remote work.

One provision would cut more than $900 million from funds used to pay the civilian workforce, with only a few categories of employees shielded from the cuts: shipyard and depot maintenance workers, mental health specialists, and employees who work in sexual assault and response jobs.

In a report accompanying the bill, appropriators suggested that “emerging technologies” may be able to replace some employees as part of a broad workforce reoptimization effort.

“Use of such technologies, including but not limited to artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, can significantly reduce the manually intensive administrative workload that plagues the department’s business operations and frustrates its workforce,” lawmakers wrote. “The efficiencies gained may be applied toward increasing manning in critical fields such as data science and systems engineering or applied towards key readiness priorities.”

Another provision appears to effectively ban telework within the DoD civilian workforce. If enacted, it would prohibit any government funds from being used for “the costs of teleworking or remote working” for “any employee or contractor of the Department of Defense on a regular and recurring basis.”

White House objections

On Monday, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget objected to those provisions — among many others in the House spending bill — in a statement of administration policy that cautioned lawmakers that the president would veto the measure if it reached his desk as-is.

Despite the support of the Democratic-led Senate for at least some degree of additional pay raises for junior enlisted members, the administration is unwilling to get behind the idea — at least for now.

Administration officials say that’s mostly because the panel on the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation (QRMC) is still finishing its work. That group, which studies the military personnel system every four years and recommends changes to pay and benefits, won’t deliver its final report until the end of this year.

“The president directed [the QRMC] to conduct a review of the military basic pay table to ensure it is structured to further strengthen service members’ economic security,” OMB officials wrote in their policy statement. “The draft bill does not fully fund the additional 15% increase for junior enlisted personnel, which would cost over $3.3 billion in FY 2025 … The administration is concerned with the tradeoffs that would be required to do so within other parts of DoD. Further, the proposed changes ignore that the bill would lead to pay compression in other parts of the enlisted military basic pay table.”

The “compression” concern was echoed in a policy statement by House Democrats. They argued that by dramatically raising E-1 through E-3 enlisted pay — without doing the same for higher ranks — Congress could harm retention rates, because there would no longer be a significant pay bump for service members who decide to reenlist long enough to become non-commissioned officers or junior petty officers.

“It creates a disparity where pay raise does not follow promotion,” Democrats wrote in the “minority views” section of the House appropriations report. “Under this proposal, that promotion will not come with the same associated pay bump as your previous rank. A service member, confronted with this situation, may decide to take their talents elsewhere — creating a retention issue. With the best of intentions, we could be creating new problems for the services, and quite frankly for ourselves in future fiscal years.”

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Daisy Thornton

Forty-eight countries have holidays celebrating independence from the United Kingdom, averaging out to one every eight days.

Source: Office Holidays


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