The United States Armed Forces is among the largest militaries in the world in terms of the number of personnel. Thus, the allocation for the Department of Defense (DoD) is also among the highest in the world amounting to $553.1 billion this year, an increase of 4.2% compared from 2011. In terms of total expenditure, this figure is the highest in the world; in terms of gross domestic product proportion, this ranks at number 11 at 4.9%. One and a half million active personnel and one and a half million reserve personnel constitute the overall military manpower. Before 1972, conscription was prevalent in the department during war and also in peaceful pursuits. Promulgation of better decrees regarding enlistment led to the removal of conscription. Since then, the Armed Forces draw most of the manpower from paid volunteers. Their compensation as well as that of army officers are based on a standard military pay chart renewed every year as approved by the incumbent president.
The Military Budget
The budget for the Armed Forces is taken from the U.S. discretionary federal budget. These funds are managed by the DoD to allocate for all expenditures related to national defense. Salaries, training expenses, medical fees, and other benefits for the personnel are taken from this budget. Equipment, facilities, and maintenance of which are also funded by this allocation. Since 2009, the military construction component accounts to about one-fifth of the overall spending. Personnel expenditures, on the other hand, steadily grow at 5% so that yearly increases in salaries as stipulated in the military pay chart are appropriately paid out. The allocation of the military budget from one branch to another varies. Nonetheless, the overall increase in salaries in 2012 from 2011 is estimated to be at 1.6% as stated in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Barack Obama on December 31, 2011.
The Army Pay Scale
The U.S. Army is tasked for land-based operations and is the oldest and largest branch in the military. Over 560,000 active personnel constitute the Army manpower. Combined with over half a reserve million personnel, the total Army strength is 1,130,000 soldiers and growing. Their salary considerations include the rank and years of service as scheduled in a military pay chart.
The U.S. Army personnel can have any one of the 24 ranks for enlisted personnel and officers. The lowest rank has a title called Private (PVT) assigned with the E-1 pay grade, where E stands for enlisted. The salary of the personnel under this category is fixed at $1491. For those with less than four months of experience, the pay is just $1378. The enlisted members’ category comprises the pay grades from E-1 up to E-9. The Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) rank is the highest in this category requiring at least 10 years of experience in the service. Basic pay starts at $4708.80 and increases as more years are added. Highest pay for this rank is $7311. These figures are based on a monthly basic pay table approved on January 1, 2012. The pay table conveniently groups the personnel into three major categories. The cross tabulation takes into account the number of years of experience on the rows and the pay grade, which corresponds to the military rank, on the columns.
The next category comprises the warrant officers with a pay grade ranging from W-1 to W-5. The beginning rank is the Warrant Officer (WO1) followed by the Chief Warrant Officer 2 (WO2) through Chief Warrant Officer (WO5). The WO1 rank has a monthly take-home pay of at least $2764.50. On the other hand, the WO5 rank, the highest in this category, can earn up to $9068.70 per month. At least 20 years of experience is required for the latter rank.
The commissioned officers hold the highest classifications of the category beginning with the 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) up to the General (GEN). The 2LT rank is assigned the O-1 pay grade. With less than 2 years of experience, monthly salary is $2828.40. Highest possible pay for this position is $3558.60 as soon as the personnel reach 3 years. The First Lieutenant (1LT) and Captain (CPT) occupy the next higher pay grades assigned as O-2 and O-3, respectively. The 1LT rank starts at $3258.60 and increases yearly up to $4509.60 within a span of four increments. The CPT position, on the other hand, has a starting pay of $3771.30 and increments 8 times up to $6135.60.
The Brigadier General (BG) with one star on his military patch is assigned the O-7 pay grade. Starting pay for this position is $8045.70 with 10 increments spanning for 18 years to reach up to $11725.50. From BG with one star, the general commissioned officers rise to two, three, and four stars respectively assigned as the Major General (MG), Lieutenant General (LTG), and General (GEN). Following the same order, their pay grades based on the military pay chart are O-8, O-9, and O-10. The MG rank can be assigned to an officer with less than 2 years of experience and would receive a pay of $9683.10 incrementing every 2 years 12 times up to $13826.40. The highest positioned General, on the other hand, has a monthly salary of up to $19239.90 which starts at $15647.10 but restricts the position only to commissioned officers with at least 20 years of experience.
The Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force
Other branches of the military follow the same pay scale as the U.S. Army but with different titles attached to their ranks. The PVT equivalent in the Navy, for instance, is the Seaman Recruit (SR) receiving the same E-1 pay grade. Except for the U.S. Air Force, the same categorization is used for the Navy and the Marine Corps. For the latter, the highest rank is the Admiral (ADM) with the same pay grade as the U.S. Army General; for the former, the highest ranked official is also given the title of General. In the U.S. Air Force, the highest rank is the General Air Force Chief of Staff (GEN). In the Air Force, however, warrant officers are not included in the categorization as suggested by the military pay chart.