Slowing the Increase in Military Pay
Jul 30, 2012
The authors assemble the latest available data on recruiting, retention, military versus civilian pay, and civilian employment conditions, and consider these data with respect to guidelines used in determining the annual adjustment in military pay. They recommend that the rate of increase in military pay be slowed, and offer three possible implementation strategies if the Defense Department moves forward with lower pay increases.
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Conditions are favorable for slowing the increase in military pay. Recruiting and retention are in excellent shape, and manpower requirements are planned to decrease. Basic pay grew 45 percent from 2000 to 2011, more than the Employment Cost Index (ECI) (up 33 percent) and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (up 31 percent). Regular military compensation (RMC) grew even more. After adjusting for inflation, RMC grew an average of 40 percent for enlisted members and 25 percent for officers. RMC growth was higher because of increases in the basic allowance for housing. RMC is above the benchmark of 70th percentile of civilian pay and stands at the 80th percentile or higher for enlisted personnel and officers with a bachelor's degree and the 75th percentile for officers with more than a bachelor's. The authors discuss several approaches to slowing the rate of increase in military pay: (1) A one-time increase in basic pay set at half a percentage point below the ECI, (2) a one-year freeze in basic pay, and (3) a series of below-ECI increases, such as ECI minus half a percentage point for four years. The first option has lower cost savings, leaves open possible further action, yet may create more uncertainty about future pay changes. The second and third options provide several times more cost savings but may be politically more costly.
Recruiting and Retention Outcomes, 2005–2011
Changes in the ECI and Basic Pay, 2000–2011
A Comparison of ECI and Median Weekly Wage Increases Since 2000
U.S. Code Title 37, Chapter 19, Section 1009, "Adjustments of Monthly Basic Pay"
Health Care Cost Avoidance
Civilian Employment Conditions
The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.
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