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March 31, 2003
Survey: U.S. Pays Soldiers Less Than $16K
A new survey of military salaries shows that some of the American troops in Iraq are fighting the war for under $16,000 in base pay per year.

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Conducted by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the survey found that the United States compensates a private with one year in the service a base salary of $15,480 per year or $1,290 per month. Even for a corporal, the fourth enlisted rank, with three years of service base pay is only $19,980 annually or $1,665 per month, according to the firm.

A family of three earning $15,260 -- just $220 under base pay for a private -- qualifies for help under government poverty guidelines, the firm notes.

Challenger researchers found only five occupations averaged less than $15,480 per year among the hundreds listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in its table of 2002 earnings of full-time wage and salary workers. These included woodworkers, $7,488; butlers and housekeepers, $12,584; childcare workers and theater ushers tied at $14,144; and crossing guards, $15,080.

The survey found that entry-level base salaries for commissioned officers, who hold the rank of second lieutenant, start at just over $26,200 annually or $2,184 per month.

Starting salaries for second lieutenants, according to the analysis of BLS earnings data, are equivalent to the average annual salaries for clothing store sales clerks, $26,780; receptionists, $26,208; pest control workers, $26,208; shoe repairers, $26,364; and woodworking machine operators, $26,312.

Commissioned officers deft enough to climb the ranks may eventually break the $100,000 salary mark, but it will likely take more than 20 years, according to the firm. General Tommy Franks, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1967 and now serves as commander in chief of United States Central Command overseeing the military action in Iraq, after 36 years earns an annual base pay of $153,948 or $12,829 per month.

The firm also compared General Franks' earnings with those of chief executives in the private sector.

While annual compensation data are not yet available for 2002, a Standard & Poor¹s survey of 2001 compensation packages among the S&P 500's top executives found that average CEO compensation was $11 million. That was in a year when a slowing economy lowered bonuses and caused the value of stock options to decline dramatically.

"The disparity between military and private sector salaries is beyond unfair, considering that each day members of our armed forces are putting their lives on the line," says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

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