WASHINGTON — U.S. troops would get their largest pay raise in 22 years under a defense budget proposal partially unveiled by the White House on Thursday.
Military pay would increase by 5.2% next year, which would be the largest boost since 2002.
The $842 billion Defense Department spending plan for fiscal 2024 represents an overall 3.2% increase for military operations over current levels.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin praised the budget, saying "enables the Department of Defense to continue building a Joint Force that is the most lethal, resilient, survivable, agile, and responsive in the world."
But, the proposal does not keep pace with inflation, which, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said in January rose 6.4% over the last 12 months.
"So, yes, you are right. In real dollars, the Defense budget is not growing. It is declining," said Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics at the Strome College of Business and director of the Economic Forecasting Project at Old Dominion University.
The Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen.Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), said the budget is "woefully inadequate and disappointing."
House Armed Services Committees Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Alabama) called it "absurd."
The Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District) said: "Our defense budget must have sustained real growth that out-paces our nation's record inflation. Failing to do so equates to a cut in real dollars."
What the budget means for Hampton Roads shipbuilding and ship repair yards remains unknown for now.
The down-to-the-penny details of the proposed full budget won't be available until Monday when the White House releases the complete plan.