By Leo Shane III
The Pentagon brass has spent months urging lawmakers to support pay and benefits changes that could hurt troops’ wallets. But those same top brass are also in line to take a hit to the wallet.
Congress included several cuts to flag and general officers’ perks in its annual authorization bill, in recognition of the sacrifices being proposed for the rest of the force.
For example, troops likely will see only a 1 percent pay raise next January, 0.8 percentless than private-sector wage growth.
But top officers won’t even get that: Pentagon officials included in the budget plan a pay freeze for all high-ranking military personnel in paygrades O-7 and above.
The move would save the military $2 million to $3 million in salaries for the slightly more than 903 flag and general officers in the ranks, a small fraction of the nearly $600 million Pentagon planners project would be saved through a raise of 1 percent, rather than 1.8 percent, for the rest of the force.
Another Senate provision could hit the brass even harder. It would reinstate a cap on retirement pay at Level II of the federal executive pay schedule, potentially trimming thousands off annual retirement payouts.
That Level II cap applies to active-duty pay, and typically affects only the longest-serving O-9s and O-10s. But when such officers leave service, their retirement pay is based on their uncapped rate of basic pay — a huge difference over a couple of decades of retirement.
Another amendment sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., would affect top officers in a different way, by reducing the number of enlisted aides who can be used as support staff in an effort to keep senior officer entourages appropriately sized.
Under the proposal, included in the House’s draft defense authorization bill, the total number of aides would be capped at 300, but could drop even lower based on the force’s total number of O-9s and O-10s. Lawmakers also want to require an annual report on the number of aides assigned to those senior officers, to ensure the figure remains under control.
House lawmakers also renewed efforts to trim the number of general and flag officers, which peaked at almost 1,000 in 2010.
Under the House provision, at least 33 of those positions would have to be cut by the end of 2015. That would drop the total to under 900, the lowest since 2001. The cuts would be made through attrition, not through forced retirements.