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President Donald Trump opened up the White House for a celebration of military mothers and spouses.
At the May 9 gathering, Trump signed an executive order to increase federal-agency hiring of military spouses.
However, Trump errred in his remarks about an issue dear to the families in the attendance — military pay.
Trump brought up his role earlier this year in signing the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, the typical legislative vehicle for providing pay increases for the military.
"We just approved $700 billion for our military," Trump said. "So we’re going to be having the best equipment ever known. And next year, $716 billion. So I wanted to let you know. And, by the way — I know you don’t care about this — but that also includes raises for our military. First time in 10 years."
That’s flat wrong. In fact, the last time that service members didn’t receive an annual pay increase was in 1983.
And that was only because of a one-time technical quirk.
Trump was "totally incorrect," said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The military has gotten a pay raise each and every year."
The full historical rundown is available in Table 5-12 here. We summarized those figures in this chart:
The increase of 2.4 percent in 2018 represented the biggest bump since 2010. But there have been increases every year since then, ranging from 1 percent to 2.1 percent. For 2019, the White House is proposing a 2.6 percent increase; the bill to enact that pay raise is working its way through Congress.
So how about that missing increase in 1983? That was the year Congress began starting pay raises on Jan. 1 of the new year, rather than the first day of the government’s fiscal year in October. So service members received their pay at the start of the fiscal year a few months earlier, just not during the calendar year, Harrison said.
Beyond that, you have to go back to 1961 to find a calendar year without a military pay increase.
Trump said that recent legislation "includes raises for our military. First time in 10 years."
That’s wrong. Depending how you count it, the most recent year without a military pay raise was either 35 or 57 years ago — not 10. And the most recent pay raise wasn’t even the biggest in the past 10 years; it was exceeded by raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, during the Bush and Obama administrations.
We rate the statement Pants on Fire.
Donald Trump, remarks at a celebration of military mothers and spouses, May 9, 2018
Defense Department, "Compensation Elements and Related Manpower Cost Items Their Purposes and Legislative Backgrounds," November 2011
Defense Department, annual pay adjustment data, accessed May 10, 2018
Defense Department, "National Defense Budget Estimates for Fiscal Year 2019," April 2018
Email interview with Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 10, 2018
Email interview with Steven Cheung, White House spokesman, May 10, 2018
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