Of all the sequester-related spending cuts, few have been met with such fierce criticism as the decision to reduce the annual military pay raise to 1 percent – its lowest in decades. White House officials say that the move is a necessary one, especially since Congress has refused to slash spending on weapons systems. Still, many members of the military community are unhappy with the decision at a time when thousands of troops are still serving in Afghanistan, reports USA Today.
Lower raise a trade-off
Top officials from the White House and the Department of Defense (DOD) say that the lower raises were enacted in an effort to maintain readiness levels, training capabilities and other benefits many military families use. This explanation has not been sitting well with some people, however, especially Joyce Raezer. The executive director of the National Military Family Association said they should not be forced to choose.
"We understand that funding training and readiness are vital to the servicemember and the Department of Defense, but why should something this important be an either-or?" she told the publication.
Most years, the annual pay raise is linked to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Cost Index, and if that were the case servicemembers would see a 1.8 percent raise in 2014. However, by lowering that to 1 percent, the Pentagon will save an estimated $540 million – certainly no small figure when the DOD is looking to trim billions of dollars in spending over the next several months as a result of sequestration.
TRICARE not immune to changes
Lower raises are not the only proposed changes that may irk many members of the military community. As part of the recently released 2014 budget, the Pentagon has a plan that could increase TRICARE fees for working-age retirees under 65, according to Military Times. Specifically, the enrollment fees for TRICARE Prime would increase over the next four years, eventually rising to $594 by 2018.
These changes could affect a large portion of the military population in the coming years as many soldiers prepare to separate from service. Officials estimate that about 300,000 soldiers will leave the service each year for the next four years.