Pay raise is only part of picture, Gates says
By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 24, 2007 15:40:00 EDT
Troops who would like to see a bigger raise next year need to keep the bigger picture in mind, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.
The administration wants a 3 percent raise for all ranks effective Jan. 1, but the House of Representatives has bumped that to 3.5 percent in its version of the 2008 defense authorization bill. The White House Office of Management and Budget has called the higher raise “unnecessary,” and Gates essentially mirrored that opinion during a May 24 Pentagon press conference, saying “We think that that’s about the right number.”
Besides, he said, there are some big-ticket items to be bought that he considers crucial to the war in Iraq.
“You know, we all wish that we had the luxury of doing more in certain areas,” Gates told reporters. “This is perhaps one of them. But there are competing interests for the dollars that we have: MRAPs, for example.”
The Army and Marine Corps want to buy a total of more than 20,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, designed to provide better protection against improvised explosive devices, the No. 1 killer of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“That’s billions and billions of dollars,” Gates said. “Where’s it going to come from? Is it better to give a soldier a pay raise or be able to buy MRAPs? I mean, these are the trade-offs that we have to make. And it seemed to us that 3 percent was a fair increase in compensation.”