White House States Opposition to Pay Raise for Troops,Increase in Widows' Benefits
May 17, 2007
Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel:
“We ask our troops to risk their lives for our nation. We ask their spouses to raise families and make ends meet without them as they serve. The President is a lot of talk when it comes to supporting the troops and their families. It’s easy to say you support our troops, but actions matter and when it comes to the treatment of our troops and their families, our resources must match our rhetoric.”
White House: 3.5 percent pay hike unnecessary
Rick Maze, Army Times – May 16, 2007
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.
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.”
Here is the relevant excerpt “strongly” opposing the pay raise:
Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes sections 601 and 606. The additional 0.5 percent increase above the President's proposed 3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase is unnecessary. When combined with the overall military benefit package, the President's proposal provides a good quality of life for servicemembers and their families. While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the three percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that. The cost of increasing the FY 2008 military pay raise by an additional 0.5 percent is $265 million in FY 2008 and $7.3 billion from FY 2008 to FY 2013.
Here the Administration opposes an additional $40 per month for widows of slain soldiers:
Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance: The Administration opposes section 644, which would pay a monthly special survivor indemnity allowance of $40 from the DoD Military Retirement Fund. The current benefit programs for survivors, DoD's Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Department of Veterans Affairs' Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), provide sufficient benefits and avoid duplication of two complementary federal benefits programs established for the same purpose — providing a lifetime annuity for the survivor of an active, retired or former servicemember. This offset policy is consistent with private sector benefits. The provision is estimated to cost $27 million in the first year and about $160 million through FY 2013. It appears to be the first step toward eliminating the offset between SBP and DIC; full elimination of this offset would cost the Military Retirement Fund between $6 and $8 billion over 10 years.
Here the Administration opposes additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees:
Death Gratuity for Federal Civilian Employees: The Administration strongly opposes section 1105, which would amend the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) to provide an additional $100,000 death benefit for surviving family members of civilian employees who died supporting U.S. forces in a contingency operation. This provision would raise equity concerns by eroding the uniformity of benefits provided by FECA.
Here the Administration opposes price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents:
The Administration strongly opposes section 703, which would impose price controls on prescription drugs when they are dispensed to enrollees in TRICARE through community pharmacies. The Administration believes market competition is the most effective way to promote discounts in the community setting. Government price-setting at community pharmacies will eliminate retail competition; it could also have an adverse impact on other markets, which could limit access to life-saving drugs, reduce convenience for beneficiaries, and ultimately increase costs. Drugs dispensed directly by DoD in its hospitals, clinics, and mail order facilities are already purchased at government purchasing schedules and DOD is working to encourage beneficiaries to take advantage of the lowest prescription drug prices available whenever possible.
And here the Administration urges deletion of various contract accountability provisions:
Acquisition Policy: While the Administration supports the underlying interests of section 806, 821, 822, 824, and 843, the Administration urges their deletion because each of these provisions is either duplicative of recently-enacted laws and implementing regulations or would be counterproductive and not of practical help in strengthening the acquisition process. Section 824, in particular, which imposes exhaustive reporting on contract deficiencies, will interfere with agencies' ability to address and resolve contract performance problems in a timely manner. In addition, section 326(b) would impose on the Department's contractors unmanageable and costly reporting requirements with questionable benefit.