Congress Passes Defense Budget With Troop Benefit Cuts

vet-ben

Weasel Zippers

On the plus side the A10 has been saved for now.

Via Stars and Stripes

Congress approved a defense authorization bill Friday, setting priorities for the military and clearing the way for cuts to troop benefits next year.

The bill passed a final 89-11 vote in the Senate, and lays out plans for military personnel, equipment such as the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, and the war in Iraq and Syria. It sets the servicemember pay raise at 1 percent, and tightens up housing allowances and Tricare pharmacy coverage as the Department of Defense grapples with mandatory caps on its spending in the coming years.

The cuts were requested by the Pentagon and White House and finally approved in the National Defense Authorization Act despite opposition in the House. Military brass had lobbied for deeper cuts but the bill takes some first steps toward what many in Congress believe will be years of reductions in personnel costs, unless lawmakers can strike a deal to lift the budget caps designed to deal with the national debt.[…]

The NDAA calls for a $495.5 billion base defense budget and $63.7 billion for overseas military operations related to the war. Here are the key changes to benefits:

Servicemembers have gotten 1.8 percent pay raises but the NDAA allows President Barack Obama to continue with a plan to reduce the increase to 1 percent.

The military’s basic housing allowance covers 100 percent of rental costs for troops and the bill brings that down to 99 percent. The Pentagon wants to slow inflation increases in the coming years until it pays only 95 percent of costs, with troops covering the remaining amount.

It will increase Tricare out-of-pocket costs for prescription medicines by $3 per year, which puts off any decision of more copay increases after 2015 but still tracks with a Pentagon plan to increase troop contributions by $30 over a decade.

Meanwhile, the bill offers some protections for the A-10, known as the Warthog, which is much loved by infantry troops but slated for retirement by the Air Force.

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