While we won’t know which way Congress is going to go with the 2016 military pay raise until Congress returns next month, indications are that it will be a 1.3 percent raise. We hope those indications are wrong.
By law, military pay raises are intended to keep up with the economy by paralleling the growth in private sector wages (as measured by an index called the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Interestingly, the measurement that points toward what the 2016 military pay raise should be was taken in October of 2014. Yes, about 15 months before the actual pay raise itself. When that measurement was taken, the ECI for September 2014 was compared to the ECI for 2013. The difference was 2.3 percent. If the law is followed, that should be the military pay raise this upcoming January.
However, in his FY 2016 Budget Plan, as he has done for the past two years, President Obama called for a pay raise lower than called for in law, in this case 1.3 percent. Simply put, his budget plan is non-binding, and his preference for a military pay raise that does not keep up with the economy is meaningless unless Congress allows that to happen. Unfortunately, Congress is divided on the issue.
In its version of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Senate has gone along with the President’s request, calling for a 1.3 percent raise. The House, however, was silent on the issue and didn’t address it in its version of the NDAA. Because the military pay raise is “different” between the two versions of the defense bill, when the House and Senate meet in conference to iron out their differences, the pay raise will be on the table. Unfortunately, the Senate will go into that conference with the stronger position, so it doesn’t look good for the 2.3 percent pay raise. Again, we hope the matter is resolved in favor of military members.
Also, while the White House and the Senate refers to this reduced military pay raise as “modest,” it is anything but that. Keep in mind that every pay raise thereafter will compound that difference, and future military pay will be accordingly lower. In the future, for those serving a full career, any military pay raise reduction along the way will lead to considerably less pay during military retirement. That is why AFSA fights so hard to protect every tenth of a percentage that should be included in each military pay raise.
On Capitol Hill, numbers are significant, from the number of cosponsors for a particular piece of legislation; to the cost of a proposal; to the number of letters, emails, and calls received on a specific subject. Congress also responds to numbers when it comes to the number of votes needed to be re-elected, and to the magnitude of the excitement in their states and districts on an issue that has come to the fore. In fact, members of Congress often ask our AFSA Headquarters legislative team how many members we represent. Why?
Without question, those associations/organizations with larger membership bases get more attention. They have greater access and influence, more readily get appointments to speak to key officials, receive more testimony opportunities, and are more sought out by Senators and Representatives to clarify important issues. Perhaps this is because members of Congress feel the larger associations more fully reflect the sentiment of the voters. Maybe it is because greater membership indicates that more people think the way they do. It could be that elected officials gauge that the larger associations more accurately mirror the needs of the military and veteran communities. Whatever the reason, without question, the larger an association, the more impact it will have.
AFSA currently has a little over 100,000 members. Considering who can be an AFSA member, we have only tapped about one-tenth of the pool of possible members. We need the help of every AFSA member to help us grow, to have greater influence, and to be better able to persuade Congress to support those matters that translate into a better quality of life for our members, their families, and their survivors. Please make a personal commitment to help us get that done.
Longtime AFSA member and former Executive Director Chief Master Sgt. (Ret) James D. Staton passed away Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Staton was the Executive Director for the Air Force Sergeants Association from 1983 to 2004.
Staton served 27 years in the Air Force before retiring in 1982 as Superintendent, Missile and Space Division, 8th Air Force Headquarters, Barksdale AFB, La. His military career included service in the fields of maintenance, electronics, operations and evaluation. He retired as a Chief Master Sergeant.
His AFSA life membership began in 1977, and he served the association as a chapter president, division president and international vice president before joining the AFSA Headquarters staff in 1982 as Director of Field Operations. He was named Executive Director in October 1983.
Funeral arrangements are still being made, but the family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the AFSA scholarship foundation in Mr. Staton’s name. Donations can be mailed to:
Air Force Sergeants Association
c/o James D. Staton Scholarship Fund
5211 Auth Road
Suitland MD 20746
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