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United States Military Basic Pay History

U.S. Military Pay History

Beginning with the year 1794, each link to the individual pay charts are associated with the military pay raise percentage and the President who signed the legislation or executive order that implemented it. Basic pay raises did not become a yearly evolution until President Kennedy's raise of 1963.

U.S. Military Pay Raise History, 1794 to Present Day

United States' military pay charts.
The 1790's Navy Pay and Ration Charts
President Washington
1794-1814
 
The 1800's Navy Pay Charts
MadisonJacksonBuchanan
1814-18341835-18591860-61
4.1%32.3%13%
 
LincolnGrantHarrison
1862-186918701893 CPO
0%25%0%

The 1900's to 1930's Military Pay Charts
T. RooseveltWilsonHarding
1908-19191920-19211922-1942 Officer Pay1922-1940 Enlisted Pay
20%4.8%0%15%
 
The 1940's Military Pay Charts
F.D. RooseveltTruman
1940-19411941-19421942-19461946-1949
28%14.4%26.4%23.7%
 
The 1950's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
TrumanEisenhower
1949-19511952-19541955-19571958-1962
22.9% 4%10%8.3%
 
The 1960's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
KennedyJohnson
1963196419651966
12.6%2.5%E:11% O:6%3.2%
 
Johnson
196719681969
5.6%6.9%12.6%
 
The 1970's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
Nixon
19701971197219731974
1971-2
8.1%7.9% & 11.6%7.2%6.7%6.2%
 
FordCarter
19751976197719781979
5.52%5%3.6%6.2%5.5%
 
The 1980's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
CarterReagan
19801981198219831984
7%11.7%14.3%4%4%
 
Reagan
19851986198719881989
4%3%±*3%2%4.1%
 
The 1990's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
H.W. BushClinton
19901991199219931994
3.6%4.1%4.2%3.7%2.2%
 
Clinton
19951996199719981999
2.6%2.4%3%2.8%3.6%
 
The 2000's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
ClintonG.W. Bush
20002001200220032004
4.8%¹3.7%¹ˆ¹6.9%4.7%4.2%
 
G.W. Bush
20052006200720082009
3.5%3.1%4.6%¹ˆ²3.5%3.9%
 
The 2010's Military Pay and Allowance Charts
Obama
20102011201220132014
3.4%1.4%1.6%1.7%1.0%
 
ObamaTrump
20152016201720182019
1.0%¹ˆ³1.3%¹ˆ³ 2.1%C 2.4%Es 1.6%Es
 


Es = Estimated. P = Proposed. E = Enlisted. O = Officer. C = Latest congressional approval.

ES:
2018 raise based on ECI per Title 37; 2019 estimate based on the Department of Defense budget desires as laid out in the Green Book for FY-2017 released on March 24, 2016.
±:
1986 pay frozen at 1985 levels. The 1986 chart does not display what was paid, but does show the amount per the 3% increase that was passed and would have been paid out if not for being frozen.
Note ¹:
Targeted basic pay raises effective July 1, 2000 beyond the approved January 1, 2000 increase of 4.8%.
Note ¹ˆ¹:
Targeted increases, effective July 1, 2001, the basic pay amounts for enlisted personnel in grades E-5 through E-7.
Note ¹ˆ²:
Additional targeted increase totaling 4.6% for various pay grades effective April 1, 2007. Added longevity raises at the 30, 34 and 38 year mark for only the most senior enlisted and officer pay grades.
Note ¹ˆ³:
Pay raise as indicated for all pay grades except O-7 through O-10 which were frozen at 2014 levels.

Important Legislation

Before 1920, in congressional legislation the term most commonly used to define what is now known as "basic pay" was "the pay of" because pay was mostly defined by Servicemember's job and not by a pay structure like the one we are used to today, e.g., "the pay of the schoolmaster shall be twenty-five dollars per month and two rations per day."[1]

Military "base pay", the term used from 1920 to 1949, and "basic pay", the term used from 1949 to present, is the primary pay earned by each member serving in the armed forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard*).

Public Law 67-235, the "Joint Service Pay Readjustment Act of 1922", signed by President Harding on June 10, 1922, was the first pay legislation that dealt with compensation for all the Services. It increased the pay rates, and established that officers would be paid according to “pay periods.” The Act essentially created the first pay tables for officer and enlisted personnel in which pay was based on longevity, and not just pay grade.

Public Law 77-607, the "Pay Readjustment Act of 1942", signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II, instituted the method of computing longevity pay for enlisted personnel the same as that for commissioned officers, that is, 5 percent of base pay for each three years of service, up to a maximum of 30 years.

Public Law 81-351, the "Career Compensation Act of 1949", signed by President Truman on the 12th of October 1949, was the first legislation that made reference to the primary element of Servicemembers' pay as “basic pay.” Basic pay was coupled with the two primary allowances “basic allowance for quarters” (BAQ) and “basic allowance for subsistence” (BAS).

How adjustments to Basic Pay are made

Each year, Congress and the President has the ability to write and approve new legislation as they deem necessary to change military pay; otherwise, since 1962, Title 37 of the United States Code has dictated how military pay adjustments will be automatically calculated.

Currently, U.S.C. Title 37, Chapter 19, § 1009 -- Adjustments of monthly basic pay, reads, "An adjustment made under this section in a year shall provide all eligible members with an increase in the monthly basic pay that is the percentage (rounded to the nearest one-tenth of one percent) by which the Employment Cost Index [wages and salaries, private industry workers] for the base quarter of the year before the preceding year [three-month period ending on September 30 of such year] exceeds the ECI for the base quarter of the second year before the preceding calendar year (if at all)."

Additionally, the Title goes on to say, "If, because of national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare, the President considers the pay adjustment which would otherwise be required by this section in any year to be inappropriate, the President shall prepare and transmit to Congress before September 1 of the preceding year a plan for such alternative pay adjustments as the President considers appropriate, together with the reasons therefor."

*The Coast Guard is currently a part of the Department of Homeland Security, and it is from that budget the compensation for personnel in the Coast Guard is derived. United States Code Title 14 dictates that the Coast Guard will be a branch of the military at all times. Because of its status as a military branch, even when it previously fell under the Department of Transportation, the pay and allowances have always been in lock-step with that of the Department of Defense.



Date page updated: December 4, 2016.

[1] "An Act to increase the Navy of the United States.", approved January 2, 1813. United States Statutes at Large, Volume 02, pg. 789, Government Printing Office.

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