Service members would see their biggest pay raise in 22 years starting in January under budget plans unveiled by a key House committee on Monday.
The move — a 5.2% raise for 2024 — would mean boosts of more than $1,500 for most junior enlisted troops next year and thousands more for higher ranks. Combined with the 2023 pay raise that went into effect five months ago, troops could see a nearly 10% increase in basic pay over a two-year span, and even more financial gains after re-enlistment bonuses and housing stipend increases are factored in.
The plans for a 5.2% pay raise for troops next year are included in the first draft from Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee’s annual defense authorization bill, a massive budget policy measure that contains hundreds of spending guidelines and operational changes for the military. President Joe Biden also recommended a 5.2% raise in his budget proposal earlier this year, showing bipartisan support for the proposal.
While the measure still has numerous legislative hurdles before it becomes law, including this proposed 5.2% pay raise in the initial drafts offers a strong signal that GOP lawmakers will back that mark as a baseline for troops pay. The mark matches federal estimates for keeping military pay on pace with the raise in civilian wages in recent years.
Over the last 20 years, lawmakers have either matched or exceeded the administration’s requests on military pay boosts. Congress has passed the legislation for the last 62 consecutive years.
For an enlisted military member ranked E-4 with three years in service, the 5.2% pay raise would mean about $1,700 more next year in take-home pay compared to their 2023 paychecks. For senior enlisted and junior officers, the hike equals about $3,000 more. For an O-4 with 12 years of service, it’s more than $5,400 in extra pay in 2024.
And junior officers could see even more money in their paychecks under the House plan. The defense authorization draft bill also calls for creation of a monthly bonus for troops rank E-6 and below to counter the effects of inflation. Specifics of how much that extra pay could be have not yet been finalized.
The measure also includes provisions to loosen rules regarding eligibility for the Basic Needs Allowance — a stipend aimed at military families earning at or just above the poverty line — and provide more generous housing stipends in regions where rent prices have risen.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to unveil its draft of the annual authorization bill next week. If they also back the 5.2% pay raise mark, the issue is unlikely to be a sticking point in the months of negotiations ahead to reconcile the two chambers’ separate bill drafts.
However, actually providing the money for Defense Department officials to spend falls to the congressional appropriations committees, who have not yet released details of their plans for fiscal 2024 defense spending. The separate committees have generally agreed on the paycheck hikes in the past, and consulted on appropriate spending levels before any one committee commits publicly to a pay raise.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.