Pentagon budget takes aim at wage disparity

The Defense Department put the troops first in its proposed fiscal 2001 budget. The Pentagon said in a statement that its $277.5 billion budget proposal "continues the department's emphasis on the quality of life of its military people — with special attention to pay, housing and health care."

The new budget includes a 3.7 percent pay boost for military personnel, or one-half of a percentage point above the forecasted rate of civilian wage growth. The 2001 budget also proposes a basic housing allowance which should reduce out-of-pocket costs for service families living off base by anywhere from 15 percent to 19 percent relative to nationwide housing prices. The Pentagon wants to completely eliminate the differential between on- and off-base housing costs by 2005, but warns that this comes with a total price tag of $3 billion over the next four years.

On the health care front, DOD's 2001 budget contains funding to eliminate copayments for active-duty family members enrolled in the Tricare program while at the same time extending Tricare to active-duty family members living far from military health care facilities.

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