Second-term Congresswoman Thelma Drake (R-Va.) wants to provide a more permanent solution to end the military to civilian pay gap, despite a growing sentiment that the gap no longer exists. She maintains, “Currently, a servicemember makes 3.4 percent less than a civilian in the private sector with a similar skill set.” However, a recent report from the Pentagon commission reviewing military compensation questioned whether there is a gap. In fact, the commission took the position that the persistent belief that there is a gap could hamper recruiting; commissioners recommended including health care, tax advantages, and such when calculating military compensation. Last summer, the Congressional Budget Office made a similar recommendation. Nonetheless, both Senate authorizers and counterparts in the House are directing half percentage point increases over the Employment Cost index for military pay in their markups of the 2009 defense policy bill. In a May 7 statement, Drake noted that Congress probably would pursue similar fixes in each succeeding year, but she doesn’t want to rely on yearly adjustments. Lawmakers began attacking the pay gap in 1999 when it was about 13.5 percent and expect the 2009 half percent increase to further reduce it to 2.9 percent. The Drake bill (HR 5987) would extend that annual half percent increase to Fiscal 2010 through 2013.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.