Obama's War on the Troops

Panetta calls for soldier pay freeze one year after TRICARE cut proposal

Soldiers attend a deployment ceremony Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Huntsville, Ala. (AP)
February 6, 2013

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will recommend to Congress that military salaries be limited to a 1 percent increase next year due to "budget uncertainties" related to sequestration, CNN reports:

Panetta will recommend to Congress that military salaries be limited to a 1 percent increase in 2014. The Pentagon has calculated that the Labor Department's 2014 Employment Cost Index is expected to be above 1 percent but wants to still cut back on pay because of "budget uncertainties," a department official told CNN. In 2013, a 1.7 percent increase was approved, based on the index, which has been the basis for military pay for the last several years.

Three Pentagon officials have confirmed details of the plan to CNN. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have also agreed to Panetta's proposed pay plan. Final approval for the pay would come from Congress in the form of the 2014 budget.

The recommendation is tied to the Defense Department's 2014 budget recommendation, which was expected to be sent to Congress this month, one of the officials said. But the officials acknowledge it is going to be seen as an effort to push Congress to stop the automatic budget cuts that could go into effect if no deal is reached on spending reductions.

Panetta has been a harsh and vocal critic of sequestration.

The essential pay freeze, however, comes just one year after the Obama administration first pushed for members of the U.S. armed service to pay more for their health care.

Last year, the Obama administration's proposed defense budget called for cuts to the military's healthcare benefits program, TRICARE, requiring military members, families, and retirees to pay more for their health care, as the Washington Free Beacon reportedPanetta later defended those cuts before a House Budget Committee hearing. The administration then threatened to veto a defense appropriations bill last summer, unless it included higher health care fees for military members.

Fee increases for U.S. armed service retirees went into effect in October, though not at the higher level of increase the administration had advocated.