A bigger pay raise for troops next year will be a tough sell in the Senate.
Last week, House Armed Services Committee officials unveiled plans for a 2.1 percent pay raise for service members as part of the annual defense authorization bill. The move would be one-half of a percentage point above the Pentagon’s pay raise request and cost an extra $330 million in fiscal 2017 alone, according to Military Times.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel, said Tuesday he isn’t sure if his chamber will be able to find the money to back the House’s pay plan.
“I want to be generous to those who have sacrificed so much, and 1.6 percent or 2.1 percent is not as generous as we need to be,” he said. “But given the constraints of sequestration coming down the road, anything that we do on the personnel side takes away from other areas.
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The Pentagon thinks it has a winning argument for why Congress should allow a new round of military base closings. The case goes like this: The Army and Air Force have vastly more space for training and basing troops than they need, and trimming the surplus would save money better used to strengthen the military, according to the Associated Press.
Congress, however, has its own logic: Closing bases can hurt local economies, which can cost votes in the next election. Besides, some lawmakers say, the Pentagon has cooked the books to justify its conclusions or at least has not finished doing the math.
Lawmakers are fiercely protective of bases in their district or state and generally prefer to ignore or dismiss any Pentagon push to close them. Nearly every year the Pentagon asks Congress for authority to convene a base-closing commission. The answer is always the same: not this year.
And probably not anytime soon, either.
The Defense Department has sent a report to Congress that concludes the military’s current network of installations has about 22 percent more space than is needed. It found that the Army has 33 percent excess capacity, the Air Force has 32 percent more space than it needs and the Navy is over by 7 percent.
The U.S. government is recruiting hackers and bomb-makers to help strengthen American defenses in hopes of defusing possible terrorist attacks, according to Military.com.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, announced in March that its Improv program was soliciting research proposals — with an emphasis on creativity — for prototypes and systems that could "threaten current military operations, equipment or personnel" made from commercially available technology such as cellphones.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department announced a pilot program, Hack the Pentagon, that is designed to identify and resolve security vulnerabilities within DOD websites.
“The goal of the program is to cast a wide net for ideas,” DARPA program manager John Main said of Improv. “We have experts who tell us some things that are possible, but the truth is that there is a huge variety of technology available to almost anyone, so a panel of experts can only tell us part of the story.”
The flow of new Islamic State recruits into Iraqi and Syria has slowed dramatically, reflecting a “fracturing in their morale,” a top U.S. general in Baghdad said Tuesday, according to Military Times.
The number of new recruits coming into the self-proclaimed caliphate has dropped from up to 2,000 per month to a new estimate of about 200 per month, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the deputy commander for operations for Operation Inherent Resolve, as the U.S. military mission in Iraq and Syria is known.
“When I first got here [one year ago], we were seeing somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 foreign fighters entering the fight. Now that we've been fighting this enemy for a year, our estimates are down to around 200,” Gersten told reporters at the Pentagon.