Representative Mike Garcia (CA-25) delivered remarks on the House Floor advocating for a higher pay raise for U.S. military servicemembers within the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation calls for a 2.7% pay increase— an increase that still leaves military servicemembers below the poverty line.
“When considering the 2.7% pay increase included in the FY2022 NDAA, we must realize that this would still leave many servicemembers below the $15 minimum that I advocated for in July. Not to mention that the 2.7% pay increase actually falls below the current inflation rate, so they are actually losing ground relative to current prices. It also fails to keep our servicemembers pay at pace with their civilian counterparts pay,” said Garcia on the House Floor.
Earlier this year, Garcia offered an amendment at the House Appropriations Committee markup on the FY2022 Defense Appropriations bill that would have ensured all servicemembers make at least $15 an hour. While his amendment was not included in the final bill, he secured a commitment from Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum that she would create a working group to find a way to address the necessary military pay raise in Conference negotiations with the Senate.
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
I rise today to speak on an important facet of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. While I am pleased that the NDAA bill delivers good top line and procurement of financial support for our nation’s defense capabilities, the bill is not perfect.
Specifically, I want to share my frustration with the bill’s failure to properly increase our nation’s military pay, and specially our enlisted personnel. The 2.7% pay increase for our military servicemembers is simply not enough.
Throughout today during the debate over the NDAA, we will hear members from both sides of the aisle talk about the 2.7%, almost touting this. I want to put this into perspective— for the average junior enlisted member, this translates to $1.80 a day more for their service.
This is unsatisfactory, especially given the gap between military pay and their civilian counterparts currently being at an all-time high.
The reality is that many of our U.S. servicemembers and their families must serve three years and gain the rank of E4 before they can be at or above most state’s minimum wage.
This is also based on the assumption that they are working only 40-hours a week, which we know is not true. Most servicemembers are actually working 50-60 hours per week, given the current operational tempo worldwide.
We should never have to discuss food insecurities for those protecting our security, but the reality is that we have a significant percentage of servicemembers and their families who actually qualify for food stamps. This is unacceptable.
We should start by paying them an adequate amount of base pay and avoid the burden of food stamps for our military.
Earlier this year, during committee markup during the FY2022 Defense Appropriations bill, I offered an amendment that would ensure that all servicemembers make the equivalent of $15 an hour, or $31,200 a year in base pay. These are not seismic numbers. These are numbers our nation can afford.
When considering the 2.7% pay increase included in the FY2022 NDAA, we must realize that this would still leave many servicemembers below the $15 minimum that I advocated for in July. Not to mention that the 2.7% pay increase actually falls below the current inflation rate, so they are actually losing ground relative to current prices. It also fails to keep our servicemembers pay at pace with their civilian counterparts pay.
If we want to attract and retain the requisite skillsets in warriors needed in a complex battle space, against a threat like China, we need to be willing to pay our troops a living wage.
In the grand scheme of things, this pay raise for our enlisted ranks is extremely affordable. It not only pays for our servicemembers and their families, but it also deepens and solidifies our nation’s security. This is a priceless return on a relatively small investment.
While the amendment I offered to the FY2022 Defense Appropriations bill was not included in the final bill, I secured a commitment from Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum that she would create a working group to find a way to address the necessary military pay raise in Conference negotiations with the Senate, and I appreciate the Chairwoman’s willingness to work with me on this issue.
Let me be clear – while the FY2022 NDAA is not perfect and it does not properly raise our military’s pay, I plan to support the overall bill as it does make important strides to provide a large majority of the necessary funding, and the initiates, that our nation’s military needs. I also promise to continue to work on ensuring our service members receive the pay raise they deserve.
After 20 years of unprecedented deployment cycles during the Global War on Terror, now is the time to invest in our precious servicemembers and their families who provide our beautiful nation its security blanket on a daily basis. $15 an hour, or $31,200 a year, is a reasonable minimum base salary for our troops.