Let's hit a first principle out of the gate here: if you are serving in the military for the money - get out.
Your nation does not need or want you here. Thank you for your service and enjoy your civilian career.
Now that this is out of the way, let's hit a topic in the Salamander Top-10: we have a glut of General Officers and Flag Officers in the US military. We have more than we know what to do with, so we keep making up jobs for them - bloating the tail while starving the teeth.
That bloat means that we have a lot of very talented people who are underemployed. Trust me on this, with one or two exceptions, take any 4-star right now, and there are a few dozen 3 or 4 stars, and perhaps a few 2-stars, who could take their job and do it just as well and perhaps better.
Every, single, one.
So, we have an excess supply and - in a static force - a static to slacking demand.
Military service members received a heralded 3% pay increase under the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, but this increase camouflaged the continued stagnation in general and flag officer pay stemming from provisions in the 2015 NDAA six years prior. That law limits the pay of generals and admirals (officers in pay grades O7 and above) to the Executive Level II salary level for civilians.
This pay cap limits current and retirement pay of senior executives to $199,300. While that may sound like an impressive amount of money, these are executive leaders responsible for organizations larger than any of the companies whose chief executives earn, on average, $21.3 million. As a result of the cap, officers stop receiving pay raises at the two star rank. It’s a limit that discourages continued service and makes it harder to keep talent at the highest levels of the military.
As of February, chief operating officer annual salaries in the United States averaged $447,971. That’s more than twice as much as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff earns. If the U.S. Army were a corporation, with its over 1 million active duty and reserve soldiers and 300,000 civilian employees, it would rank just behind Walmart in the size of its workforce. The compensation package for the chief operating officer of Walmart is almost $10 million, whereas, the Army Chief of Staff earns $199,300. For the three- and four-star officers who remain in the Army for 40 years, the cap creates a cumulative pay reduction of more than $1 million in earnings when compared to pay without the limitation.
It is a military "service" and a calling - not a self-enriching career path.
I'm not sure how much of this comes from too many of our senior leaders being sent to Ivy League schools for a to mix it up with trust fund kids for a few weeks or months, or having them live for years with the rent-seeking rich in the DC metropolitan area ... but child please; they are not underpaid.
Especially when you consider their retirement packages ... no.
If any GOFO feel "underpaid" then by all means, leave. The door is right there. Feel free. No one is stopping you.
There are dozens of just as well qualified O6+ who can take your place.