This story has been updated to correct statements made by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.
The Department of Defense continues to push for a 5.2 percent pay increase in Fiscal Year 2024, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks announced Tuesday during a Center for New American Security event.
If approved in the final Fiscal Year 2024 DOD budget, it would be the highest DOD salary increase. It would also mean that service members would receive around a 10 percent increase in salary between fiscal years 2023 and 2024, Hicks said.
Pay raises, including the 5.2 percent increase in the FY 2024 budget, are one way the Department of Defense is attempting to keep people in the military, as the services continue to struggle to meet recruitment goals.
Hicks announced the intention of seeking the pay raise during a CNAS talk on the all-volunteer force, which turned 50 in 2023. The all-volunteer force, introduced through the Gates Commission in 1970, turned 50 in a year marked by difficulties in recruiting.
The Army, Navy and Air Force all missed recruitment goals in FY 2023. While the Marine Corps met its goal, the service’s leadership has been outspoken about the difficulty in ensuring that will continue to happen in the future.
Outside of the pay increase, the DOD is also looking at childcare, spousal employment and food security as three areas of attention to encourage people to stay in the force, Hicks said.
One change coming to DOD schools is the implementation of full-day pre-kindergarten, Hicks said.
“While we are not a perfect institution, we are sending a strong signal that we’re listening and we’re moving to make progress wherever we can for those who currently serve and to be more attractive to those who show a propensity to serve,” she said.
She noted that continuous resolutions and the looming government shutdown take away certainty from military members, decreasing their willingness to stay in the force.
Hicks also called on Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to end his hold on the Senate unanimous consent for confirmations of flag and general officers preventing the Senate from approving military nominations in large quantities over the Defense Department’s policy that reimburses service for out-of-state travel for reproductive care, including abortions. Senate majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has elected to not bring individual confirmations to the floor for voice votes with few exceptions. As of Tuesday, the hold affects 448 general and flag officers, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters.
“This hold is unnecessary, unprecedented and unsafe,” Hicks said. “It’s bad for the military.”