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Troops Could See An Even Bigger Pay Raise Than Expected In January
Troops still have a chance in December to receive their highest pay raise in years, even if Congress goes ahead with plans to put off a vote on 2017 defense spending for months to accommodate President-elect Donald Trump.
The House and Senate are hashing out the details of the National Defense Authorization Act, a sprawling military policy bill, and could wrap up this week. House lawmakers have proposed a version of the annual bill that includes a 2.1-percent pay hike instead of the 1.6 percent increase ordered by President Barack Obama to take effect in January.
If the House proposal prevails in the final NDAA – the Senate went with the lower raise – it could become law in December and the Defense Department would be required to begin doling out the biggest military pay raise in five years, according to congressional staff involved with the legislation.
Obama used an executive order to set the 2016 pay raise at 1.3 percent.
Congress has already abandoned plans to pass a 2017 defense appropriations bill before the end of the year, which could leave other new policies in the NDAA unfunded for now. But the pay raise could go into effect even as other spending increases are delayed, staff members said.
Republican leaders announced this month they will pursue a stop-gap budget measure to maintain current federal and military funding levels through the end of March so Trump can have input after being sworn in Jan. 20 as president. The Defense Department has repeatedly warned against such moves, contending it will cause a budgetary complication and thwart good planning.
But it remains uncertain how the closed-door NDAA negotiations will pan out in the coming days.
The armed services committees in the House and Senate are wrangling over whether to risk Obama’s veto of the NDAA by boosting base spending with $18 billion to buy new hardware such as ships and aircraft, increase troops and boost pay that has been lagging behind the private sector for years.
Military pay raises have been kept below 2 percent since 2011 while troops and families have been stressed by deployments, aging equipment and shrinking overall defense spending.
The National Military Family Association has said troops are being “nickel-and-dimed” and that a higher pay raise is among its top priorities.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House committee, has been leading the charge for higher military spending – including the 2.1-percent raise -- and warning of a readiness crisis due to a dip in spending since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His Senate counterpart, John McCain, R-Ariz., advocated for a spending boost as well but ended up sponsoring an NDAA that hewed to the lower spending levels requested by the Obama administration.
Some budget analysts believe Thornberry and McCain might feel emboldened to push for bigger boosts to the military in the final NDAA following the election of Trump. Congress must still approve any final version of the bill.
Democrats have demanded increases for the military be matched dollar for dollar by more domestic spending but now might be more willing to cut a deal as they face a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress next year.
© 2016 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The DNA of a niece and nephew, who never met their uncle, has helped identify the remains of the Kansas Marine who died in WWII.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that 21-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Raymond Warren was identified using DNA and circumstantial evidence. Warren had been buried in a cemetery in the Gilbert Islands, where he was killed when U.S. forces tried to take secure one of the islands from the Japanese.
The Battle of Tarawa lasted from Nov. 20 to Nov. 23, 1943, and claimed the lives of 1,021 U.S. marines and sailors, more than 3,000 Japanese soldiers and an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers before the U.S. troops seized control, the agency said.
Arizona lawmakers are vowing to fight a plan by the Air Force to start retiring some of the nation's fleet of A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack jets — a major operation at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — as part of a plan to drop some older, legacy weapon systems to help pay for new programs.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a former A-10 pilot, and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., both vowed to fight the move to retire 44 of the oldest A-10s starting this year.
During a press briefing last week, Air Force officials unveiled plans to start mothballing several older platforms, including retiring some A-10s even as it refits others with new wings.
MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un was filmed riding through the snow on a white stallion last year, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on 12 purebred horses from Russia, according to Russian customs data.
Accompanied by senior North Korean figures, Kim took two well-publicized rides on the snowy slopes of the sacred Paektu Mountain in October and December.
State media heralded the jaunts as important displays of strength in the face of international pressure and the photos of Kim astride a galloping white steed were seen around the world.
North Korea has a long history of buying pricey horses from Russia and customs data first reported by Seoul-based NK News suggests that North Korea may have bolstered its herd in October.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A high-profile local Taliban figure who announced and justified the 2012 attack on teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has escaped detention, Pakistan's interior minister confirmed a few days after the militant announced his breakout on social media.
Former Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, who claimed responsibility on behalf of his group for scores of Taliban attacks, proclaimed his escape on Twitter and then in an audio message sent to Pakistani media earlier this month.
The Pakistani military, which had kept Ehsan in detention for three years, has declined to comment but, asked by reporters about the report, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, said: "That is correct, that is correct."
Shah, a retired brigadier general, added that "you will hear good news" in response to questions about whether there had been progress in hunting down Ehsan.
The 7-day "reduction in violence" negotiated between the United States and the Taliban is set to begin on Feb. 22, an Afghan government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Task & Purpose on Monday.
A temporary truce beginning on Saturday that would last for one week is seen as a crucial test between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan governments that would prove all parties to a potential peace deal can control their forces. Defense Secretary Mark Esper declined to confirm the date on Sunday.
"That is a moving date because we are still doing consultations, if you will," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters.