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Pentagon says troop pay overgenerous

WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) -- Pentagon officials say years of overgenerous pay and benefits to service members and their families could lead to fiscal calamity.

For years Congress overruled the Pentagon and approved generous increases in pay and benefits that have made service personnel better compensated than their peers in the private sector, The Washington Post reported Friday.

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Waging two long-term wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials worry the government's generosity cannot be sustained and will leave them with less funds to purchase weapons and maintain equipment, the newspaper said.

Increasing personnel costs could "dramatically affect the readiness of the department" by cutting into money to pay for operations and maintenance, Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel, told a Senate committee in March.

Personnel expenses account for nearly a quarter of defense spending, the Post reported.

But members of Congress say they consider military pay and benefits sacrosanct.

"Both sides of the aisle are trying to send a very clear message to our military that we appreciate their service," said Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairwoman of its military personnel subcommittee.

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The Pentagon had to look at setting priorities, she said. "We end up with a false choice -- are we going to fund weapons or are we going to fund people? The reality is, we need both."

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