House lawmakers will propose a 4.6% pay raise for servicemembers next year as part of their initial draft of the annual defense authorization bill, but are also mandating a series of studies into the issue of military pay to ensure it’s keeping pace with civilian wages and families’ financial needs.

As part of the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel section of the annual military policy legislation, officials are backing the White House call for a 4.6% pay raise to go into effect Jan. 1 of next year.

That recommendation follows federal formulas calculating the yearly rise in civilian sector wages and would be the highest pay raise for troops in 20 years.

For junior enlisted troops, the 4.6% hike would mean about $1,300 more next year in take-home pay. For senior enlisted and junior officers, the hike equals about $2,500 more. For an O-4 with 12 years’ service, it’s more than $4,500 in extra pay.

But some critics have said those numbers may not be high enough to account for inflation spikes over the last several months and amid the rising cost of groceries, gas and other essentials. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted a 6.1% jump in the consumer price index this year.

Lawmakers plan to include in the bill a closer look at how military pay raises are calculated, with an eye towards future adjustments if Pentagon officials see growing gaps between troops’ paychecks and civilian salaries.

In recent months, committee ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., has voiced concerns that enlisted pay rates may be too low to ensure stable recruiting and retention levels for the services.

The new studies will also take into account how military housing allowances are calculated and awarded, and whether changes may be needed there.

Last fall, the Defense Department boosted housing allowances for troops living in 56 markets with soaring rent rates, to ensure those individuals weren’t being priced out of quality housing.

Lawmakers still could push for a higher pay raise during the committee’s full-day mark-up of the authorization bill, which is scheduled for June 22.

Meanwhile, officials on the Senate Armed Services Committee are expected to unveil their plays for the annual pay raise as part of their initial authorization drafts next week. Appropriations proposals from House lawmakers on the defense budget are expected to be released later this month.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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