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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), left; Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, center; and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), SAC vice chairman, during the full committee mark-up of the Fiscal 2015 defense funding bill on July 17, 2014. Senate Appropriations Committee photo.

The Fiscal 2015 defense funding bill approved by Senate appropriators last week, holds the military pay raise at 1 percent, slows the growth of the basic housing allowance, and continues the Air Force’s personnel reductions. However, it bulked at reducing support for military commissaries and requiring higher contributions for Tricare health coverage. The $489.6 billion base appropriations, approved late July 17, accepted the Pentagon’s request to provide a smaller pay raise than the 1.8 percent the standard formula calls for and a lower BAH increase as part of the effort to slow the rapidly rising cost of military compensation. The House, however, provided the higher pay raise, meaning the issue will have to be compromised. Both chambers agreed to freeze pay for generals and admirals. But both Houses also yielded to strong opposition from service and veterans organizations to any reduction in financial support for commissaries, which keeps food prices lower, or a higher contribution level for Tricare, which has not changed since the program started nearly 20 years ago. The Senate committee accepted the Air Force’s proposal to cut 12,000 Active Duty airmen and 4,000 Air Force Reserves members, but does not cut any personnel from the Air National Guard. “It’s a good bill for our men and women in uniform. It emphasizes readiness, cares for our wounded warriors, takes steps to improve health on our military bases, and provides resources needed to keep our nation secure,” said SAC Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) in her opening remarks. (See also House Passes Fiscal 2015 Defense Spending Bill.)