Congress has overridden President Obama’s objection to Congress’ annual defense bill, giving the troops a 2.1% pay raise and a boost in manpower.
Released on Tuesday, the bill also includes a massive overhaul of the military healthcare system but spares military personnel the dreaded cuts in housing allowance that were the subject of much debate earlier in the year.
At $3.2 billion more than President Obama’s target cost, the NDAA is set to total nearly $619 billion.
President Obama has said that he won’t accept increases in defense spending without corresponding increases in non-military programs, risking a snubbing of a military workforce who feels largely uncompensated and subject to a slipping quality of life.
Agreeing with President Obama, Maryland Congressman Steny H. Hoyer said, “I am disappointed that the Administration did not use its authority to provide for an average 2.1% raise in 2017 for federal civilian employees, which would establish parity with the 2017 raise for personnel serving in non-combat areas that Congress is expected to include in the FY2017 defense authorization bill.”
With the approval of the NDAA, 2017 will be the first time in six years that the military receives a pay raise over two percent.
While military budget specialists have argued the military could better use the money to pay for training and modernization, lawmakers felt that three years of pay raise trims have placed the heaviest of burdens upon the finances of military personnel and their families.
In the way of troop increases, the Army would be spiked to 476,000 soldiers (16,000 over the White House’s recommended numbers), while the Marines would be capped at 185,000 troops and the Air Force climbing to 321,000 airmen. The Navy would remain fixed at 324,000 sailors.
While the bill would overhaul military healthcare and transfer control of most facilities to the Defense Health Agency, the most interesting change is to Tricare- which will place new enrollment fees for new enlistees but leave current fees intact for current troops and retirees.
The bill will also see a 12% reduction in flag and general officers, adding dramatic changes to defense acquisition processes.
According to Military Times, Lawmakers also included a provision to deal with the recent California National Guard bonus recoupment issue that rocked the nation, shifting the burden of proof for accusations of fraud or misuse from individual troops to the Defense Department.
As President Obama’s time in the White House comes to a close, Republican lawmakers on the hill say that finalizing budget plans will allow incoming President Donald J. Trump to set his own priorities for federal spending programs, while the bill still setting defense priorities for the current fiscal year.