Troops get raise, housing allowance increase

Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Money contained within the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act will fund a 3.5 percent troop pay raise and eliminate servicemembers’ out-of-pocket costs for family housing, the Department of Defense’s top military personnel official said.

The January troop pay raise will be applied across-the-board to all servicemembers and will not feature pay hikes targeted to specific ranks as in past years, said David S. C. Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The targeted raises issued to mid-level officers and noncommissioned officers over the past two years, Mr. Chu said, “have fixed,” for now, most pay-disparity issues involving those ranks.

And, he said, money is contained in the act to boost allowances that eliminate servicemembers’ out-of-pocket expenses for on- or off-base family housing. Stateside and overseas family-housing allowances are calculated according to regional markets.

Another provision in the act removes a previously established ceiling limiting how much military family-housing inventory could be privatized, Mr. Chu said.

Privatization enables DOD officials to modernize military family housing more quickly and efficiently, Mr. Chu said. About one-third of military families live in on-base housing.

If DOD funded all of its existing family-housing needs by itself, it would take “forever” to make needed repairs or to replace aging housing units largely built in the 1950s, he said.

Mr. Chu named privatization success stories, such as contractor-provided housing for Soldiers and their families at Fort Carson, Colo. Such private sector-provided housing offers contemporary quality and “design flair” for servicemembers while providing more bang for the buck for taxpayers.

The act also contains three special pay and bonus authorizations, Mr. Chu said. For example, the bill makes permanent the increase of military family separation pay to $250 a month and hostile fire/imminent danger pay to $225 a month.

The bill also provides “a much stronger set” of re-enlistment bonuses for Guard and Reserve servicemembers.