WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 – President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2010 budget proposal includes a 2.9 percent pay increase for U.S. servicemembers. The figure is lower than pay raises requested the past two years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday. But he noted that Congress has a precedent of increasing the amount initially requested.

“Two years ago, we went to the Hill with about the same request; it was 3 percent. And last year, we went with a request for 3.5 percent,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. “In both cases, the Congress added to it.”

Gates cited the “constrained economic environment” for the smaller proposed pay raise, but said the request is “not all that different from what we submitted in the past.”

The bump in pay is part of the Defense Department’s $534 billion base operating budget for fiscal 2010, which represents a 4 percent, or $20 billion, increase from the previous fiscal year.

At a news conference yesterday, Gates expressed confidence that the department’s budget share will be enough to sustain its requirements, including personnel needs.

“I’m confident that this funding level will allow the department to meet its long-term institutional priorities of taking care of the troops and their families, rebalancing our capabilities for conventional and irregular warfare, completing the growth of the Army and Marine Corps and preserving essential modernization programs,” he said.

The budget summary released by the White House yesterday says the military pay increase reflects the administration’s commitment to caring for troops and increases servicemembers’ purchasing power.

“After years of asking more and more from our troops and their families, this budget reflects the priorities of an administration that is committed to caring for the servicemembers who protect our security and the families who support them,” the summary states.

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