America’s armed servicemen and women could receive their largest pay raise in five years under a congressional bill that seeks to override President Barack Obama’s more limited orders for defense spending in fiscal year 2017, which began Oct. 1, and would leave room for “a new president” to beef up the military budget within his first year in office.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress unveiled Tuesday, would increase troops’ pay by 2.1 percent—ahead of Obama’s planned 1.6 percent—giving members of the armed forces their first raise above 2 percent since 2011. That brings baseline salaries for enlisted service members up to nearly $19,194 from $19,099 under Obama’s budget plan. Highest-paid officers will receive more than $242,130 annual from Obama’s planned $240,944.
In addition to increasing service members’ salaries, the bill, which could receive a House vote on Friday, would increase troop numbers in every branch of the military—adding 20,000 to the Army, 3,000 to the Marine Corps, 4,000 to the Air Force—compared to Obama’s proposal. It also seeks to maintain support for a minimum of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, while Obama intended to draw down the number of troops present there to 5,500.
Both chambers of Congress must pass the bill and Obama must sign the legislation for it to go into effect, and many expect pushback from Democrats, who tend to fight defense spending increases unless it is paired with expansion of domestic programs.
The act did, however, imply that any dismissal by Obama or Senate Democrats, clinging to a majority for the next month, could be essentially reversed once President-elect Donald Trump enters office on Jan. 20.
As the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas, wrote in a summary of the bill, “The Chairman’s expectation is that a new president will assess the national security landscape and submit a supplemental budget request—as is traditional in the first year of a new administration.”
According to Trump’s campaign site, the president-elect would opt for an 80,000 Army troop increase, a similar growth within the Marine Corps and hundreds of new aircraft and ships for the Air Force and Navy, respectively. It remains unclear whether Trump would boost the pay of the nation’s troops, but his defense budget plans are expected to come with a hefty price tag.