Military Pay and Benefits

June 16, 1978

Report Outline
Attacks on Compensation System
Scope of Military Remuneration
Future of All-Volunteer Force
Special Focus

Attacks on Compensation System

Marked Improvement Since End of Draft

Pay and benefits in the U.S. armed forces have improved markedly since military conscription ended five years ago. The days of $75-a-month recruit pay are only a distant memory. Today, fresh enlistees earn nearly $400 a month in basic pay. And it is calculated that housing and rations allowances and tax advantages are worth an additional $200 a month. The lowest ranking officers receive $12,450 in total compensation.

Manpower costs account for 57 per cent of the military budget in this fiscal year and 55 per cent of the $125.5 billion proposed budget for fiscal 1979. Those figures compare with the last year before the Vietnam buildup — fiscal 1964 — when manpower costs consumed about 48 per cent of the defense budget. A recent study by the General Accounting Office said $18 billion in defense spending between 1971 and 1977 was directly attributable to the all-volunteer force. Pay raises accounted for $14 billion of the extra outlay.

The Pentagon questions the way the GAO computed these figures. Nevertheless, Department of Defense officials concede that the cost of maintaining all-volunteer military forces is high and will continue to be high. “Because military service is no longer an expected obligation of citizenship,” Secretary of Defense Harold Brown told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 7, “it is no longer safe simply to assume that junior soldiers, sailors and airmen perceive society's support and appreciation for their service. Many military personnel will judge society's support and measure their satisfaction to a considerable degree by how well the services provide for their basic needs…. The quality of life support for the soldier is a critical ingredient to enlistment, retention, commitment to service and readiness.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cost of Living and Wages
Apr. 17, 2020  Inequality in America
Sep. 08, 2017  Universal Basic Income
Apr. 08, 2016  Future of the Middle Class
Apr. 18, 2014  Wealth and Inequality
Jan. 24, 2014  Minimum Wage
Jun. 19, 2009  Rethinking Retirement
Mar. 06, 2009  Middle-Class Squeeze
Mar. 14, 2008  Gender Pay Gap
Dec. 16, 2005  Minimum Wage
Sep. 27, 2002  Living-Wage Movement
Apr. 17, 1998  Income Inequality
Oct. 27, 1978  Wage-Price Controls
Jun. 16, 1978  Military Pay and Benefits
Mar. 23, 1966  Rising Cost of Living
Oct. 25, 1961  Price-Wage Restraints in National Emergencies
Jun. 21, 1961  Wage Policy in Recovery
Jun. 11, 1958  Prices and Wages in the Recession
Sep. 18, 1957  Control of Living Costs
Nov. 02, 1955  Wages, Prices, Profits
Jan. 26, 1954  Minimum Wage Raise
Jan. 02, 1954  Cost of Living
Jan. 21, 1953  Guaranteed Annual Wage
Dec. 17, 1952  Future of Price and Wage Controls
Nov. 19, 1951  Fringe Benefits and Wage Stabilization
Dec. 06, 1950  Wage Control
Jun. 13, 1949  Wages in Deflation
Jun. 04, 1947  Guarantees of Wages and Employment
Oct. 29, 1946  Decontrol of Wages
Dec. 01, 1945  Minimum Wages
Sep. 29, 1945  Wage Policy
Oct. 27, 1944  Wage Security
May 17, 1943  Incentive Wage Payments
Aug. 25, 1941  Prices, Profits, and Wage Control
Apr. 28, 1941  Wartime Changes in the Cost of Living
Sep. 21, 1940  Two Years of the Wage-Hour Law
Nov. 01, 1938  Industry and Labor Under the Wage-Hour Act
Jan. 20, 1938  Wage Rates and Workers' Incomes
Apr. 11, 1935  The Cost of Living in the United States
Sep. 01, 1930  Wages and the Cost of Living
May 24, 1930  The Anthracite Wage Agreement
Feb. 20, 1925  Measure of Recovery in Profits and Wages Since 1920–21 Depression
Employee Benefits
General Defense and National Security