Pay Raise Shows America's Commitment to Troops
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2004 The 3.5 percent pay raise provided for in the 2005 Defense Appropriations Bill shows the U.S. government and the American people are committed to supporting their military forces, DoD's top personnel official said today.
"It's a strong signal of the country's support for the men and women in uniform," David S. C. Chu, undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said during an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
This year's appropriations bill also brings to zero the average out-of-pocket housing expenses paid by military members. Five years ago, officials estimated housing allowances paid to military members covered only 81 percent on average of what most military members actually paid. In January 2000, then-Defense Secretary William Cohen pledged to reduce that percentage every year. Since then, officials have kept that pledge.
Chu explained today that the housing allowances now cover 100 percent of the average housing costs for individuals, based on DoD estimates of rent rates in various areas and what size and type of housing individuals of various ranks and family situations should be entitled to.
"We're committed to keeping it that way," he said.
Chu also stressed that it's vital to recognize the sacrifices of National Guard and Reserve servicemembers in the war on terrorism. "We shouldn't differentiate (between active and reserve troops)," he said. "If you're on active duty, you're on active duty" regardless of how you got there.
Enhanced access to health care for reserve-component servicemembers and their families and improved education benefits enacted or proposed since the war on terrorism began help highlight America's commitment to these forces, Chu said.
In particular, President Bush announced today that he supports improving G.I. Bill education benefits for reserve-component servicemembers activated for an extended period of time. The change would make the benefit for activated reservists more on par with the benefit active-duty forces are entitled to, Chu said.
"I think the country is recognizing the importance of our Guard and Reserve force by these changes," he said. "We recognize that we're asking them to do something difficult leaving their families, leaving their homes, often in inconvenient times, sometimes at a significant financial sacrifice.
"We appreciate that," he continued. "And we want to be sure that we ease that transition and make it as seamless as possible for people."
The undersecretary also offered a personal message directly to the men and women in American's armed forces.
"You around the world are doing a superb job for this country, often under very difficult circumstances, often away from your loved ones," Chu said. "We appreciate the sacrifice you're making. We thank you for that service. We want to do our very best by you and provide the kind of support that makes this a superb career choice for you and your family."