Starting from January 2020, military personnel are set to receive a 3.1% pay raise, according to President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 defense budget. If the proposal goes through Congress, it would mark the largest increase in pay in a decade. The last largest increase was 3.4% in 2009. Depending on rank and years of service, the pay raise could amount to an additional $800 to $3,000 per year.
The standard practice has been to increase the military paychecks in accordance with increases in the private sector wages. The Department of Defense (DOD) has been using the Employment Cost Index to calculate the correct number each year.
The 2020 budget totals an astounding $750 billion, with an additional $164 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). The OCO funds are reserved to support ongoing operations at times of heightened operations, for instance, during the Iraq and Afghanistan Surges. With no such commitments at the time, or indeed in the immediate future, it remains a mystery why there’s a need for such a large OCO number.
In the time leading up to the announcement, President Trump had adumbrated the large number by saying, “I gave you the greatest and biggest budget in our history. And I’ve now done it two times. And I hate to tell the rest of the world, but I’m about to do it three times.”
Aside from the substantial pay increase, the FY2020 defense budget stipulates the addition of 30,000 troops. In a statement, the White House said the extra servicemen are needed “to achieve the objectives in the National Defense Strategy.” However, it didn’t clarify how the additional troops would be divided among the different branches of the military. The overall aim is to have a military (Active, Reserve, and National Guard) of 2,140,300 personnel. Furthermore, the DOD plans to restore the readiness and lethality of the military through the various projects contained in the budget.
It will be interesting to see how the military plans to recruit more troops. With the economy doing better, the financial incentive to don the uniform is less for some. Although, arguably, for most, enlisting in the military stems from an irrepressible desire to serve out of patriotism and duty.
Both the pay increase and the overall defense budget, however, need to be greenlighted by Congress. Given the fact the Democrats hold a majority in the House, the budget is certainly going to face extensive scrutiny.