2023 Could Bring Largest Military Pay Raise in Decades. But Is It Enough?

2023 Could Bring Largest Military Pay Raise in Decades. But Is It Enough?
Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Breeden/Navy

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) unmasked its third-quarter Employment Cost Index (ECI) figures for private-sector wages and salaries Oct. 29, giving a glimpse at the pay raise military members likely will receive at the start of 2023.


The 4.6% figure, if it holds, would be the largest raise since a 5% hike in 2002, but will it hold, and even if it does, will it be enough?


MOAA closely tracks ECI reports because, by statute, military pay raises are tied to the index unless the administration or Congress intervenes to change the law, as they did by cutting the raise from 2014 to 2016. The military pay raise fell a total of 2.6 percentage points behind ECI those three years.


It’s tracked with ECI since then, including this year – the 2020 ECI benchmark of 2.7% is part of both the House and Senate versions of the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and the final compromise bill will all but certainly include that figure when it heads to the president’s desk for signature. 


The recent ECI release will inform the FY 2023 NDAA, which would include the pay raise that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023. Here’s a look at the correlation since 2008:

  • ECI third quarter, 2008: 2.9%, informing a 3.4% military pay raise in the FY 2010 NDAA.
  • ECI Q3 2009: 1.4%, FY 2011 raise: 1.4%
  • ECI Q3 2010: 1.6%, FY 2012 raise: 1.6%
  • ECI Q3 2011: 1.7%, FY 2013 raise: 1.7%
  • ECI Q3 2012: 1.8%, FY 2014 raise: 1.0%
  • ECI Q3 2013: 1.8%, FY 2015 raise: 1.0%
  • ECI Q3 2014: 2.3%, FY 2016 raise: 1.3%
  • ECI Q3 2015: 2.1%, FY 2017 raise: 2.1%
  • ECI Q3 2016: 2.4%, FY 2018 raise: 2.4%
  • ECI Q3 2017: 2.6%, FY 2019 raise: 2.6%
  • ECI Q3 2018: 3.1%, FY 2020 raise: 3.1%
  • ECI Q3 2019: 3.0%, FY 2021 raise: 3.0%
  • ECI Q3 2020: 2.7%, FY 2022 raise: 2.7% (pending NDAA)
  • ECI Q3 2021: 4.6%, FY 2023 raise: ??


[RELATED: MOAA President, Board Member Speak Out to End Military Food Insecurity]


Junior Families Hit the Hardest

The gap created in 2014-2016 has contributed to some alarming problems. Since that time, uniformed families have experienced soaring spousal unemployment rates, significant shortages of child care capacity across installations, increased out-of-pocket PCS costs, and a growing demand for food banks and pantries on base.


Before the pandemic, the Congressional Budget Office estimated more than 10,200 families would benefit from a Basic Needs Allowance (BNA) to combat food insecurity. The problem has only grown worse since the pandemic began, and the BNA still needs your support for inclusion in the NDAA.


[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the Military Hunger Prevention Act]


With a looming $3 trillion deficit, and large infrastructure and social welfare bills on the table, appropriations will be a challenging environment for the next few years. Lawmakers are already discussing flat DoD budgets and will surely look for savings through personnel costs in the future. As DoD looks to protect modernization priorities, some lawmakers are very concerned about junior uniformed families.


[FROM MILITARY.COM: Boost to Enlisted Pay and Benefits Eyed by Top House Lawmakers]


Concerns over food insecurity in this group were raised during the annual NDAA House Rules Committee hearing with Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). Rules Committee Chairman Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), notably wearing a printed face mask that stated “End Hunger Now” and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a Navy veteran, asked Smith and Rogers to look at increasing pay raises for enlisted servicemembers in the following NDAA.


The group committed to addressing these concerns next year. This effort may also offer an opportunity to advocate for the 2.6% pay raise gap next year.


Vigilantly monitoring military pay and protecting service-earned benefits will require MOAA’s continued commitment and focus. Keep up with the latest MOAA advocacy news at MOAA.org and by following MOAA on Facebook and other social media outlets.


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MOAA is committed to protecting the rights of servicemembers and their families. Lend your voice and support these efforts today. Because the larger our voice is, the greater our impact will be.


About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.