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News Release


Release No: 646-98
December 21, 1998


The United States has the best military in the world. Our forces showed that during Operation Desert Fox last week. Every day, U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, along with members of the Coast Guard, work together to protect our national interests around the world and our freedom and prosperity at home.

The key to our strength is the men and women who serve in uniform. One of my primary responsibilities as Secretary of Defense is to assure that we recruit, train and retain the best people we can find.

Military training is difficult and extensive. It takes five to seven years to train an Air Force flightline maintenance supervisor, 18 years to become the skipper of a destroyer, and 28 years to groom an armored division commander.

For this reason, I have been working with President Clinton, the Service chiefs and the senior enlisted representatives to make sure that military pay and retirement systems adequately reward the experienced men and women in our military.

I am pleased to announce a package of significant pay increases and retirement improvements for the nation's men and women in uniform. These will be part of President Clinton's fiscal year 2000 budget. The Department of Defense's pay and retirement package has three main parts.

The first part is across-the-board pay increases for all Service members. Beginning January 1, 2000, we will increase pay across the board by 4.4 percent, and by 3.9 percent annually in fiscal years 2001 through 2005. This increase is the largest in basic military pay in nearly a generation and it compensates our Service members adequately and fairly.

The second part is targeted pay raises and greater reward for performance. In addition to the across-the-board increases, we are proposing targeted raises for noncommissioned officers and mid-grade commissioned officers. This will enable us to do a better job of rewarding performance, compensating people for their skills, education and experience and encouraging them to continue their military service. We are also reforming the pay table to make raises for promotion bigger than those for longevity. Taken together, these improvements in the pay table will reward performance. The maximum targeted pay increases will range from one-half of one percent to 5.5 percent. The targeted raises will come on top of the 4.4 percent that everybody will get beginning January 1, 2000. The targeted increases will take effect on July 1, 2000.

The third part is improvement of the retirement system. The retirement system that applies to Service members who began military service on or after August 1, 1986 is significantly less generous than for members who entered service earlier. Those who entered after August 1, 1986, receive 40 percent of their basic pay if they retire after 20 years, while members who began service before 1986 get 50 percent. The change was made in the Cold War era following large pay raises. It was designed to encourage members eligible for retirement to stay longer. Today, in this uncertain time of high demand and smaller forces, this retirement change - informally known as "redux" - is perceived as inequitable. Therefore, we are committed to returning 20-year retirement to 50 percent of base pay.

This is a good package. It addresses the real concerns that men and women in uniform have raised with me during my visits to ships and bases this year. It responds to market forces. It will help to reward performance.

These significant changes come in the broader context of a continuing effort to achieve adequate military compensation and benefits. That effort includes improved allowances for housing, food, and cost of living, as well as targeted bonuses and special and incentive pay to recruit and retain the skilled men and women who protect our country.

We believe this package will be fair and effective. We must compensate men and women in uniform properly in relation to their peers and in relation to the larger economy. And the compensation system must help the Services recruit and retain the high quality men and women our defense requires.

The leadership of the Department of Defense and the military Services are deeply committed to providing for the welfare of the men and women who serve the nation so well, and for their families. I will work with Congress to win approval of this proposal.

The nation requires effort, dedication and sacrifice from our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. They are the pride of our nation, and they are working harder than ever to take care of us. We must act now to take better care of them.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry H. Shelton's prepared statement:

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And thank you for your strong, unwavering support of our men and women in uniform. I'd like to also thank the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: General Ralston, General Krulak, General Reimer, Admiral Johnson, and General Ryan, as well as the Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Loy, and the senior enlisted advisers for helping make this very important announcement possible.

All told, the joint chiefs and senior enlisted advisers represent more than 300 years of combined military experience. And that is why the message we took to the President and the Congress this past fall carried so much weight. These military leaders lived through the terrible years of the hollow force, and they are determined that we will never stand by and allow our superb military force to sink to that level again.

We are very pleased that the President understood our concerns and made this commitment to sustain the quality of our armed forces and to ensure the men and women who have chosen to serve this country will receive competitive pay and a retirement package that recognizes the special demands of military life. We appreciate that many members of Congress have expressed strong support for these initiatives, and we plan to work closely with them to ensure that we get the legislation required to fix the "redux" retirement program and to implement the pay table reform outlined by Secretary Cohen.

Most of you watched very closely this past week as we conducted military operations against Saddam Hussein's military forces and his weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

Inevitably during such operations attention is focused on the effectiveness of our aircraft, our missiles, and our "smart bombs." Our technology is impressive. But what sets the U.S. military apart, what makes our armed forces the envy of every military in the world, is the talent, the skill, the dedication - in short, the extraordinary quality -- of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. Indeed, the men and women of our armed forces make their complex and dangerous missions look so effortless that we are at risk of taking their excellence for granted. We must not allow that to happen.

The future of our military effectiveness is in our outstanding young second- and third- term noncommissioned officers and the superb junior and mid-grade officers who lead them. Our action today will send a strong signal to our troops. It will tell them that we have heard their concerns about retirement, pay, and the pace of operations, and that we are taking decisive action to address their concerns because they deserve no less. As I have said many times people are more important than hardware. Our future readiness and our ability to meet America's defense requirements in the 21st century hang in the balance. We must make the right decisions today.

Shortly, I will leave for Europe to visit our troops in Bosnia. Several other members of the joint chiefs will make similar trips in the next few days. Each of us will carry a very important message, a message that our country very much appreciates the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform particularly during this special time of the year. We will also now be able to tell them of the initiatives we're taking to ensure that they are appropriately compensated. Again, adopting these compensation initiatives now is the right decision if we are to sustain the quality force that will enable us to safeguard the nation's vital interests and meet our global security requirements in the years ahead.

View proposed monthly basic pay table

Download proposed monthly basic pay table in .pdf format

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