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DoD Official: Incentive-Pay Parity Report Still Weeks Away

03-21-23 WR Incentives
03-21-23 WR Incentives
Washington Report

A Defense Department official told Congress at a hearing last week that a required Pentagon report on incentive pay parity that is nearly six months overdue is almost done.

The update didn’t please Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.

Nor did the Pentagon official's synopses of the report's probable contents.

"I think you guys are slow-rolling this because you don't want to implement it," Duckworth, a retired Illinois Army National Guard helicopter pilot, told Thomas Constable, the acting assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs.

The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act already grants National Guardsmen and Reservists the same incentive pay as active-duty troops.

But language in the provision required DoD to certify to Congress that the change wouldn't negatively affect the force structure of any military component.

It is that certification that Duckworth and other lawmakers want.

While Constable resisted providing an exact timeline, he promised that staffers would be briefed in "weeks or less."

"Not years, not months," Constable said. "I think the answer is weeks. Obviously, faster when I go back than before I left the building."

Duckworth demanded that lawmakers get the report in four weeks.

"You need to do this," she said.

The issue involves 18 categories of incentive pay used to attract recruits or retain service members with specific skills or qualifications.

Many of the bonuses, which can add hundreds of dollars a month to paychecks, require specialized training or involve duties that put a service member at greater risk.

Currently, Guardsmen and Reservists receive a fraction of the incentive pay that active-duty troops get, despite requirements to maintain the same level of proficiency.

Duckworth cited jump pay as an example.

Both active-duty and reserve-component paratroopers are required to perform three jumps a month, but Guardsmen and Reservists get only $5 a month, compared to active-duty members getting $150.

Duckworth was among six Senate and House members from both parties who wrote Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III after the Pentagon missed the report's initial Sept. 30 deadline.

Last week, Constable suggested that the delay was the result of the Pentagon not wanting to increase all bonuses and concerns that higher incentive pays for Guardsmen and Reservists lure some troops away from the active component.

"Not all special skills, not all special pays are created equally or should be treated the same," he said.

"We just have to find the right mix of places wherein we seek equal dollars versus equal consideration," Constable added.

"And of course, cognizant of creating incentives to draw people from one force to the other."

NGAUS believes that the services should focus on keeping people in uniform, not just in one component or another.

A recording of the exchange between Duckworth and defense officials is available here. Duckworth's exchange with Constable begins at 1 hour, 2 minutes into the recording.

— By John Goheen