Higher Military Raise Spurs Calls for Pay Parity

Congress is set to vote on the final version of the annual DoD authorization bill (HR-2810) providing for a 2.4 percent raise in January for military personnel, spurring calls from employee organizations to boost the planned amount for federal employees to the same level in the name of pay parity.

House and Senate conferees on the DoD bill agreed to the 2.4 percent figure instead of 2.1 percent that the Trump administration had recommended, which itself was above the 1.9 percent it proposed for federal employees.

The employee raise is following the pattern of previous years in which Congress remains silent and the White House figure takes effect by default. President Trump already has said that if that silence continues, he will split a 1.9 percent increase in January as 1.4 percent across the board and 0.5 percent for locality pay. Exact rates by locality are yet to be determined.

However, the planned higher military raise has increased attention to the difference in raises between uniformed and civilian personnel, leading to calls to pay both the same amount. That had been the informal practice for many years–with the result similarly being to typically pull up the federal employee amount–until the linkage was broken starting in 2011 with a three-year freeze on federal employee salaries while military personnel continued receiving annual raises.

Last year in similar circumstances President Obama did boost the federal employee raise. A 1.6 percent increase had been on track for most of the year as a default raise but late in the year when Congress approved 2.1 percent for the military, he increased the default federal employee raise to that level.