Troops would get 4.5% pay bump in new Pentagon budget

Troops would get a 4.5% raise in their basic pay.
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Standard Missile
FILE: The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout launches a Standard Missile (SM) 2 during a missile exercise (Lt. Laura Radspinner/U.S. Navy)

A sense of ‘Groundhog Day’ prevailed at the Pentagon Monday as officials released the Defense Department’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2025, which includes a 4.5% pay bump for service members, while wait for Congress to catch up with last year’s spending plann. Congress has yet to pass a budget 2024, kicking the budget can down the road for the last six months with temporary spending measures, the latest of which is set to expire later this month.

The $849.8 billion budget calls 4.5% pay increase for service members and a 2% pay raise for civilians. For an E-3 with three years of service, that pay raise will translate to an additional $1,447 per year in base pay, or roughly an extra $121 per month.

Overall, the military’s active-duty end strength would decrease by only 0.6% under the new budget, while reserve component forces would be 0.2% higher, the senior defense official told reporters on Friday. The Navy’s end active-duty strength would fall by a total of 5,500 sailors; the Air Force Reserve would see a reduction of 2,700 airmen; and the Army would lose 2,700 active-duty soldiers, budget documents show. It was not clear how many of those cuts would be of currently unfilled positions across the force.

Lawmaker’ inaction has meant that the Defense Department has been unable to buy more shells and missiles to replace what the United States has given to the Ukrainians or replenish the Navy’s stocks of missiles, which have been depleted by ongoing operations in the Red Sea against Houthi rebels, officials said.

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Defense Department civilians would receive a lower raise than troops because the Pentagon needed to find savings under defense spending caps imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, an agreement that lawmakers reached to raise the debt ceiling, a senior defense official said on Friday.

The legislation caps all defense spending – including funding for the Department of Energy – is capped at $895 billion for Fiscal Year 2025. That actually represents a 1% drop in defense spending when adjusted for inflation.

Overall, the military’s active-duty end strength would decrease by 0.6% in the budget, while reserve component forces would be 0.2% higher, the senior defense official told reporters on Friday.

The Defense Department’s proposed budget would devote $29.8 billion to new munitions, budget documents show. That breaks down to $16 billion for tactical missiles; $7.2 billion for strategic missiles; $5.9 billion for ammunition; and $0.7 billion for technology development.

This year’s Defense Department budget, which remains stalled in Congress, calls for $30.6 billion in funding for munitions. That means none of the multi-year contracts with arms manufacturers requested in this year’s budget have become law.

Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives are also blocking supplemental funding that would allow the Defense Department to replenish its stockpiles of artillery shells and other weapons systems that the United States has provided to Ukraine.

The Defense Department needs about $10 billion to replace all the munitions that the United States has given to Ukraine as part of its military assistance packages, the senior defense official said.

“There’s a lot of real problematic consequences if we don’t get the sup [supplemental] – obviously for Ukrainians, primarily, first and foremost,” the senior defense official said. “They’re low on ammunition today. They’re fighting and dying today. If we can’t help them, there isn’t another industrial base on the planet that can really take our place. I think we have seen that already.”

Meanwhile, the Navy has been expending a lot of ordnance as part of an undeclared war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attacks against Israel, the Houthis have launched missiles, drones, and small boats against commercial shipping, sinking one cargo ship so far.

U.S., British, and French forces recently shot down 28 one-way drones launched by the Houthis.

In a separate effort, the U.S. and British militaries have launched airstrikes against Houthi missile launchers and other targets in Yemen to stop attacks against shipping. More than 150 Houthi missiles and launchers along with rotary wing aircraft, weapons storage areas, and numerous drones had been destroyed by the end of February, according to the Pentagon.

Still, the Department of the Navy’s proposed budget for munitions is $6.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2025 – slightly less than the $6.9 billion called for in this fiscal year’s budget.

The Navy expects there will be a supplemental budget request later this year to help replenish the service’s stocks of missiles and other ordnance that it is using in the Red Sea, Under Secretary of the Navy Erik Raven told reporters on Friday.

“The ’25 budget that is being presented does not anticipate the current expenditure of missiles in the Red Sea or those additional operations costs,” Raven said.

The Navy has already requested a multi-year contract for Standard Missiles in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which is pending approval, Rear Adm. Ben Reynolds, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget.

One reason why the Navy’s proposed budget for munitions is slightly lower in Fiscal Year 2025 is due to the fact that the service included so much funding to expand production lines of SM-6s and other missiles in this fiscal year’s budget, Reynolds said on Friday.

“We’re doing everything we can right now with the funds and capabilities that we have for the weapons that we have,” Reynolds said. “We can furbish some SM-2s as we go along, but the most important thing we need to do is get PB [President’s Budget] 24 started so we can start these multi-years on things like SM-6.”

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