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Authorization Act Pluses Up Pay, Creates New Civilian System

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2003 – The fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act pluses up military pay accounts and creates a whole new civilian personnel system.

The act, passed by Congress Nov. 7, authorizes DoD to spend $401.3 billion. The fiscal 2004 Defense Appropriations Act, which actually provides the money, became law Sept. 30. President Bush is expected to sign the authorization bill into law soon.

All service members receive at least a 3.7 percent pay raise. Certain mid-level noncommissioned officers, petty officers and officers will receive targeted pay raises of up to 6.25 percent. The average pay raise is 4.15 percent.

The bill also directs the Executive Branch that the annual military pay increases after fiscal 2006 will be equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index.

The bill continues the "buy-down" of out-of-pocket expenses by increasing the Basic Allowance for Housing. Currently service members living "on the economy" pay 7.5 percent of the housing costs out-of-pocket. That percentage will drop to 3.5 in fiscal 2004, and be eliminated in fiscal 2005.

The bill also continues hostile-fire or imminent-danger pay at the current level of $225 per month through Dec. 31, 2004. It continues separation pay at the current level of $250 per month for the same period.

The bill authorizes an increase in the Army's end-strength. The administration did not request this plus-up. Congress authorized an increase of 2,400 in the active duty Army and an increase of 1,779 for full-time Army reserve component soldiers on active duty.

End-strengths for the services are Army, 482,400; Navy, 373,800; Marine Corps, 175,000; and Air Force, 359,300. Selected reserve end-strengths are Army National Guard, 350,000; Army Reserve, 205,000; Naval Reserve, 85,900; Marine Corps Reserve, 39,600; Air National Guard, 107,030; and Air Force Reserve, 75,800.

Overall end-strength for the military is 1,390,500 on the active side and 863,330 on the reserve.

In addition, Congress increased the National Guard by 264 full-time personnel to man 12 more weapons of mass destruction-civil support teams.

The bill gives reservists and their families more access to Tricare the military's health care program.

The bill authorizes a phased-in concurrent receipt program for military retirees. The current law requires that retired pay be reduced by the amount of any VA disability payment. Last year, the fiscal 2003 authorization act instituted a program allowing retirees who were awarded the Purple Heart and have disabilities rated at 60 percent or higher to keep both retirement pay and disability compensation.

Effective Jan. 1, 2004, all 20-year retirees with a Purple Heart or a combat- related disability will be eligible for concurrent receipt. The bill authorizes a phased-in full concurrent receipt program over the next 10 years for retirees who are most severely disabled (50 percent or more).

Congress gave the administration most of what it asked for in the new National Security Personnel System. The system, a centerpiece to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's transformation strategy, is designed to increase flexibility and allow supervisors the ability to manage more effectively.

Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon Town Hall meeting Nov. 21, the new system will give the department the agility it needs "to quickly respond to changes in the new security environment."

He said the new system will give civilians the freedom that they will need to do their jobs. "Each of you has chosen to serve our national defense because you want to contribute to the peace and security of this country," he said. "This legislation will help you transform the department so DoD's great civilian workforce can be as agile, flexible and innovative as the forces you support in the field."

The system builds on more than 25 years of experiments in pay-banding and classification changes. Officials said the new system will make it easier for the department to hire new highly qualified workers, to change the workforce to suit the needs of the future, to reward good workers and to encourage new ways of thinking.

The system still comes under equal employment opportunity protections, and all current laws banning political activities and the like, continue. The new system will make negotiations with unions easier, allowing DoD to negotiate with national bodies rather than local unions.

Other important parts of the act deal with environmental regulations. DoD asked for relief from some aspects of the Marine Mammal Protections Act and the Endangered Species Act. The bill allows DoD greater latitude and will give soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines the ability to participate in realistic training.

Overall funding levels are $74.2 billion for procurement, $114.4 billion for operations and maintenance and $63.4 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation.

On the equipment side, the bill authorizes $1.7 billion in research and development funding for the Army's Future Combat Systems program. It allots $2.9 billion for 42 Navy and Marine Corps' FA-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft. The bill has $3.5 billion for 22 Air Force F/A-22 Raptor aircraft, and $4.4 billion for the multiservice Joint Strike Fighter program.

The bill forged a compromise on aerial refueling. The Air Force proposed leasing 100 Boeing 767 aircraft as tankers. The compromise calls for the service to lease the first 20 aircraft and buy the rest outright. Officials estimate this will save the American taxpayers $4 billion over the life of the aircraft. The compromise allows the Air Force to begin replacing the aging fleet of KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft. The first KC-767s will be delivered in fiscal 2006.

The bill addresses the gap in strategic airlift by putting $2 billion toward delivery of 11 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.

The V-22 Osprey program receives $872.2 million for continued development, including nine aircraft for the Marine Corps and two for the Air Force.

Again in fiscal 2004, unmanned aerial vehicle programs are doing well. The Air Force Global Hawk is slated for $40.2 million, while the UAV receives $211.6 million for 16 systems. Congress included an additional $18 million in the request for a turboprop version of the Predator.

The Army's Shadow Tactical UAV will receive $73.8 million for eight systems, and an additional $12.4 million for continued research.

In shipbuilding, $1.2 billion is slated for advanced procurement of the CVN-21 next-generation aircraft carrier. Full funding for the carrier is planned by fiscal 2007, but the ship will not join the fleet until 2013.

The budget also puts aside $1 billion for continued research for the DD(X) an experimental warship that will be the test bed for the Littoral Combat Ship and the future cruiser.

The bill authorizes $3.2 billion for three more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and $1.2 billion for another LPD-17 San Antonio-class ship.

The authorization bill sets aside $1.5 billion for another Virginia-class attack submarine and $1 billion for another boat in fiscal 2005.

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