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Troops to get retroactive pay
January raise to be on Feb. checks
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WASHINGTON -- Active duty troops will receive retroactive earnings next month, followed weeks later by a supplemental payday for non-active personnel, a Pentagon official said today.

The National Defense Authorization Act signed into law yesterday by President Bush stipulates a 3.5 percent military pay raise. This hike is 0.5 percent higher than an executive order Bush signed Dec. 28 to increase pay by 3 percent, which took effect Jan 1.

In mid-February, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will pay active duty troops the extra 0.5 percent raise earned since the start of 2008. Non-active members will receive the supplement "a couple weeks later," said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary for military personnel policy.

Carr said the Pentagon is "delighted" with the act and praised cooperation by Congress. Disagreement between the president and Congress over non-defense-related earmarks and controversial language about the Iraq war had delayed the bill's enactment.

"I think it's good news for everybody in uniform," Carr said. "This Congress has been terrific in working with us in terms of providing to the troops the things that they need."

Between 2000 and 2007, private-sector pay increased by 29 percent, while military pay jumped 42 percent during the same time, Carr said. Meanwhile, wages paid to noncommissioned officers, which includes corporals and all grades of sergeant and petty officer, spiked by about 52 percent.

"We've made considerable headway, in terms of increasing the value of military pay, to the point where we're now frankly in about the 70th or 80th percentile of similarly educated American earners," Carr said. He noted that the most recent raise, by virtue of exceeding the current inflation rate, will increase servicemember recipients' purchasing power.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the retroactive payments ensure "that our forces are compensated commensurate to their service and sacrifice." In a news conference at the Pentagon today, Morrell noted that troops will benefit in various ways by provisions codified in the act.

"It lets us resume offering bonuses to new recruits and re-enlisting troops," he said. The act also includes funding to improve health care and benefits for wounded troops and veterans.

The bill became law just a week before the next budget cycle begins as Bush sends his fiscal 2009 request to Capitol Hill. That budget proposal, along with a request for $70 billion in emergency war spending, will be delivered to Congress Feb. 3

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