United States military pay is money paid to members in the United States Armed Forces. The amount of pay may vary by the member's rank, time in the military, location duty assignment, and by some special skills the member may have.
Pay will be largely based on rank, which goes from E-1 to E-9 for enlisted members, O-1 to O-10 for commissioned officers and W-1 to W-5 for warrant officers. Commissioned officers and warrant officers will often have higher pay-grades than their enlisted counterparts. Early pay-grade promotions are quite frequent, but promotions past E-4 will be less frequent.
There are two broad categories of military pay: "pay" and "allowances". Typically, pay is money which is based upon remuneration for employment, while allowances are money necessary for the efficient performance of duty. Generally speaking, pay is income, while allowances are reimbursement. In the landmark case Jones v. The United States, the United States Court of Claims decided that military allowances are not "of a compensatory character" and "not income as well". Since it was determined that allowances are not income, they cannot be taxed, divided, or garnished, while pay can be. (42 USC 659, et seq.)
Typically members are paid on the 1st and 15th day of each month. If the 1st or 15th of the month falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday the member is paid the first business day before. The monthly pay statement is known as a "Leave and Earnings Statement" (LES), which is usually available near the end of each month. The money is directly deposited into a member's personal banking account. The payment on the 15th is known as "mid month pay", and the pay on the 1st is "end of month pay". (End of month pay used to fall on the last day of the month, but in 1990 was moved one day to the first to save money in a fiscal year.)
There are a few components which most military members receive.
Also known as "base pay", this is given to members of the active duty military on a monthly basis and is determined by their rank (or more appropriately their pay grade) and their length of time in military service. Basic pay is the same for all the services.
37 USC 1009 provides a permanent formula for an automatic annual military pay raise that indexes the raise to the annual increase in the Employment Cost Index (ECI). The fiscal year 2010 president's budget request for a 2.9% military pay raise was consistent with this formula. However, Congress, in fiscal years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009 approved the pay raise as the ECI increase plus 0.5%. The 2007 pay raise was equal to the ECI.
A military pay raise larger than the permanent formula is not uncommon. In addition to across-the-board pay raises for all military personnel, mid-year, targeted pay raises (targeted at specific grades and longevity) have also been authorized over the past several years.
According to Title 37 United States Code §206, the basic pay amount for a single drill is equal to 1/30 of the basic pay for active duty servicemembers.
For members of the Reserve components of the United States Armed Forces performing duties with their units on battle assembly (drill) weekends, pay is usually based on four drill sessions of four hours per session, equal in pay to four days of active duty basic pay.
Beginning on January 1, 2002, all enlisted members received full BAS, but paid for their meals (including those provided by the government). It was the culmination of the BAS reform transition period.
Because BAS is intended to provide meals for the service member, its level is linked to the price of food. Therefore, each year it is adjusted based upon the increase of the price of food as measured by the USDA food cost index. This is why the increase to BAS will not necessarily be the same percentage as that applied to the increase in the pay table, as annual pay raises are linked to the increase of private sector wages. As of 2022, enlisted members receive $406.98; warrant officers and commissioned officers receive $280.29 per month.
Enlisted BAS II. Enlisted members on duty at a permanent station and assigned to single (unaccompanied) government quarters, which do not have adequate food storage or preparation facilities, and where a government mess is not available and the government cannot otherwise make meals available, may be entitled to BAS II. The rate for BAS II is fixed at twice the rate for standard enlisted BAS. Effective February 10, 2006, the Navy authorized the payment of BAS II. Effective October 1, 2010, the Air Force authorized payment of BAS II to members at specific locations.
U.S. code dictates a rather complex equation for military pay raises, based on the Employment Cost Index, a measure compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to track the costs of labor for businesses. Military pay increases by "the percentage (rounded to the nearest one-tenth of one percent) by which the ECI for the base quarter of the year before the preceding year exceeds the ECI for the base quarter of the second year before the preceding calendar year (if at all)". Specifically, the code states that the ECI for wages and salaries of private industry workers will be used.
Essentially, when the ECI goes up, so does military pay, so that military salaries do not fall behind civilian ones. For example, because the ECI increased 1.4 percent in 2009, that was the proposed military pay raise in 2010. The raise is unusually low — the smallest percent change since the series began in 1975, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The president is empowered to suggest a lower or higher pay raise, which must be ratified by Congress, in extenuating circumstances like an economic crisis. Congress can also vote to change the president's proposed decrease or increase. For the 2011 budget, the House Armed Services Committee suggested boosting the 1.4 percent raise. But Defense personnel officials resisted, saying they would rather that money be used for other programs that benefit military families. After an 11-year string of increases that slightly exceeded average private sector annual raises, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick said that, "We actually think we have a surplus in terms of pay." The Department of Defense announced increases in military housing allowances, family support programs, and child care and tuition assistance for military families in the 2011 budget request, many of which outpace the base pay increase.
A member may be eligible for some of the following pays depending on rating (MOS) and assignment (location and duty).
|*projected increase based on U.S.C. Title 37.