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Trump's Victory Could Mean Bigger Pay Raises For Troops
After years of being squeezed, troops and their families are hoping for higher pay raises and the surprise victory of Donald Trump might make that more likely — even before the president-elect takes office in January.
Congress has been debating whether to risk President Barack Obama’s veto by adding $18 billion to the annual defense budget and giving troops the highest pay raise in years. Trump’s election might now embolden Republican lawmakers to press harder this year for that money, or at least a chunk of it, now that it is certain their party has claimed the White House, according to budget experts.
Military pay raises have been held to less than 2 percent since 2011, below that of private sector wage growth, while troops and families have been stressed by deployments. The pay issue has become a top concern and the nonprofit National Military Family Association wrote an open letter to Trump after Tuesday’s election asking that it be made a priority.
Overworked and feeling “nickel-and-dimed,” the military wants the president and Congress to provide the 2.1 percent raises that it is supposed to receive under law, said Joyce Wessel-Raezer, executive director of the association.
“If a new administration would say, ‘We are going to find a way in our budget to give you the full increase that is in law,’ that would be a huge message,” she said.
Congress has been debating for months the possibility of the higher raise as part of the $602-billion defense budget but the raise depends on an additional $18-billion hike. The Armed Services committees in the House and Senate – both controlled by the Republican majority – are split on whether to push ahead with the hike against Obama’s veto threat and an insistence by Democrats that each dollar be matched with more domestic spending.
But the earlier defense budget calculus by Republicans might have changed Tuesday when Trump pulled off a sweeping victory that shocked many pundits and poll watchers. Election polling had indicated Trump would likely lose to Democrat Hillary Clinton and Democrats could make gains in Congress, meaning an even dimmer political outlook for Republicans next year.
“They thought they might lose the Senate and they might as well get the best [budget] deal they could … now I think there is a feeling they could push much harder. I expect them to be more aggressive than they would have been otherwise,” said Mark Cancian, senior adviser for the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.
Obama might now be less likely to follow through with his veto threat and Democrats in Congress might be more willing to make a deal knowing Republicans will have more control and leverage next year when Trump proposes his first defense budget, said Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.
“I think the thing is, this level of spending pales in comparison to the level of challenges coming next year,” Binder said.
Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee and its chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., opted to avoid a political fight with the Democrats. It crafted a defense bill that called for the 1.6-percent troop pay raise requested by Obama.
But the House Armed Services Committee and its chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, spearheaded a 2.1-percent raise and the $18-billion hike despite the veto threat.
Now, the two committees are set to return to Washington on Monday and continue negotiating a final deal, which could include some or all of the House’s hike. Congress has been in recess since September.
The Republican lawmakers could be emboldened by the election to push Congress and the president for more, said Justin Johnson, a senior defense budget policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.
“I think now you have a situation where the Republicans on the committees can almost dare President Obama to veto it,” Johnson said. “It certainly it gives them more flexibility.”
©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.