A new study says troops might be overpaid

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22195464

A new study thinks the troops are getting paid a bit too much.

First reported by Military Times, the RAND study — Setting Military Compensation to Support Recruitment, Retention, and Performance — looks at how military pay compares to civilian pay, saying that military pay "increased substantially" over the course of the 2000s. Typically, military pay falls into the 70th percentile of civilian pay, but the report finds that in recent years both enlisted and officer pay in the Army has exceeded that benchmark, and continues to do so.

"Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay," writes the study's author, Beth Asch.

Comparing military and civilian pay, however, isn't easy considering how different the jobs are. The study recognizes that military jobs "are often more hazardous and rigorous, require frequent moves, and are less flexible." It also says that compensation for service members needs to be "sufficiently high" to retain troops in the all-volunteer force.

The timing of the study's release comes just after a 3.1% increase in basic pay for troops was announced, the largest pay raise in almost 10 years. Troops are also receiving a 2.8% increase in basic allowance for housing, and a .9% increase in basic allowance for subsistence.

The study raises a number of other questions related to military compensation — about the structure of the military retirement system, the role of incentive pay, pay-adjustment, and more.

It says that while other services saw an increase in the quality of their recruits as they raised their pay, the Army did not.

One of the possible reasons for that which Asch brings up is the post-9/11 G.I. Bill, which cut the Army's ability "to provide education benefit 'kickers' to recruits," and thus took away the Army's edge on other services. Someone who may have decided to go into the Army for the education benefits now could find the same benefits in the Air Force or the Marine Corps.

The study says that "increasing resources other than military pay" could be a better cost-effective way to increase the quality of recruits.

"Military compensation is an emotional issue; after all, it is the most direct way the country recognizes and recompenses people for their military service," Asch writes. "At the same time, it is a major cost element. ... Given the sensitivity of compensation issues and its significant cost, it is imperative that the compensation fulfills its human resource mission as effectively, efficiently, and fairly as possible."