Military personnel costs have nearly doubled since fiscal year 2001 and now consume one-third of the Pentagon’s base budget [...] by repeatedly passing pay raises above and beyond the Pentagon’s request, Congress has driven military pay out of line with the Pentagon’s own standards. Basic pay accounts for about half of military cash compensation—service members also receive tax-free allowances for housing and subsistence, a variety of other tax breaks, and an array of special and incentive pay. By 2006 the average service member earned $5,400 more in cash compensation than a comparably qualified civilian counterpart, and the average officer earned $6,000 more than a civilian with similar education and experience. This disparity has continued to grow in the past six years. What’s more, these numbers do not include the value of the generous health care benefits received by military personnel.
Whether the result of a lack of congressional understanding of the full range of military compensation or political expediency, repeatedly raising basic pay above the Employment Cost Index is fiscally unsustainable. It ignores the advice of military leadership and the recommendations of the Pentagon’s own commissions such as the Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation.
Reforming Military Compensation