FACT CHECK: Did The Military Get Its Biggest Pay Raise In Almost 10 Years?

Shane Devine | Fact Check Reporter

Republican Rep. David Young claimed Tuesday that President Donald Trump signed into law “the largest pay increase for our military in almost 10 years.”

Verdict: True

Military personnel received a 2.4 percent pay raise in 2018, the largest increase in eight years.

Fact Check:

Young, who is up for reelection in his home state of Iowa, made the claim at a campaign rally with Trump.

Members of the armed forces receive basic pay each year, an amount that increases with rank and years of service. Although service members also receive other forms of compensation, including allowances for food and housing, it’s basic pay Young is referring to when making his claim.

Federal law mandates that basic pay increase each calendar year in line with the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which is used to measure the annual change in private sector wages.

Despite the pay raise being mandatory, the president can choose to deviate from the index with what’s known as an alternative pay adjustment. Former President Barack Obama, for example, lowered the pay raise below the change in ECI from 2014 to 2016.

For 2018, the Trump administration sought to do the same. It submitted a budget that included a 2.1 percent raise for the military, compared with an ECI increase of 2.4 percent.

Congress overrode the adjustment in its defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2018, setting the increase back to 2.4 percent. Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 12, 2017.

The 2.4 increase for 2018 is the largest pay raise for military personnel since 2010, according to data from the Department of Defense. Pay has increased steadily since 2016, although increases are still considerably lower than those experienced in the prior two decades.

The debate over how high pay raises should be is, in part, a matter of defense priorities. Some believe funds are better spent on building military capabilities and modernization efforts, while others argue that service members need to be well-compensated to keep up morale.

Congress has authorized a pay raise for 2019 of 2.6 percent.

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Shane Devine

Fact Check Reporter