Report Shows Military Pay Meets Key Benchmark

Report Shows Military Pay Meets Key Benchmark
A Marine Corps recruit takes on an obstacle Dec. 15 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. (Photo by Cpl. Dylan Walters/Marine Corps)

The recently published 13th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation (QRMC) report contains some good news for our military community, showing military compensation has maintained a key benchmark.


The ninth QRMC (2002) identified the need to keep military compensation at or above the 70th percentile compared with civilians of equal education. Otherwise, it may not be adequate to recruit and retain enough individuals to meet the requirements of the all-volunteer force.

QMRC at a Glance

Key takeaways from the 13th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation. The panel determined:
  • Regular military compensation deemed adequate to recruit and retain the force.
  • Thrift Savings Plan contributions under the Blended Retirement System is an area of concern.
  • No recommendation for a single-salary system.
  • Support for further study of a time-in-grade pay table.
  • Servicemember usage of SNAP is not a concern, and a policy change isn't warranted.

The full report has four volumes, which can be accessed at the links below:


This QRMC was tasked to evaluate the issues in the second and fourth volumes, as well as servicemember contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) under the Blended Retirement System (BRS); a single-salary system; and a time-in-grade pay table.


More Good News: The report recommended maintaining current standards for compensation, and clearly remained against changing the current pay system to a straight salary-based system. Such a change could have resulted in a pay cut for most servicemembers.


The Bad News

The QRMC took a narrow look at food insecurity among servicemembers by looking into usage rates of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report indicates between 880 and 4,620 of the 1.1 million stateside servicemembers were enrolled in the SNAP program, but these estimates should be taken with a grain of salt – samplings included data from only 34 states (33 in one data set), and high-cost-of-living areas like California, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C., were not included in this calculation. Additionally, it is unknown how much usage rates have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The report does recognize the need for, and recommends, using better methodology to track SNAP usage.


While these estimates are lower than the civilian usage rate, MOAA remains concerned about food insecurity in the military. Many military families do not qualify for SNAP due to inclusion of their military housing allowance as part of income calculation for SNAP eligibility. Other federal housing allowances, like Section 8 housing, are not considered income for civilians. It would be irresponsible for DoD to only look at their measure of SNAP usage rates as a full picture of food insecurity.


[RELATED: This Change in Law Would Keep Some Military Families From Going Hungry]


Looking Ahead

The 13th QRMC found many servicemembers contribute less than the DoD-anticipated amount to their TSPs as part of BRS. Further education and automatic messages to those not contributing 5% are still needed for junior enlisted personnel to maximize matching funds.


The report also recommended a study of a time-in-grade pay table to incentivize performance and provide options for lateral transition from the civilian sector to the military. For high-tech specialties in a “war for talent,” more study and a pilot program is needed to determine the impact on retention and ability to credit civilian experience with pay.    


MOAA will continue to review this report and the potential for follow-on studies as noted.


MOAA Knows Why You Serve

We understand the needs and concerns of military families – and we’re here to help you meet life’s challenges along the way. Join MOAA now and get the support you need.

JOIN TODAY Join a Chapter

About the Author

Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)
Lt. Col. Mark Belinsky, USA (Ret)

Belinsky retired in 2019 after serving 22 years, with overseas tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, and Germany. He joined the MOAA team in 2019 as Director, Currently Serving and Retired Affairs.