Military pay raises are annual increases in the basic pay component of total compensation for personnel in all military branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps). Congress passed the Fiscal 2024 Defense Spending Bill in December 2023, which was then signed into law by President Biden.

The bill confirmed the largest raise in military pay in decades. 2024 is the second year in a row that military members received a large bump in basic pay. The veteran COLA increase in 2024 is 3.2%, and other common allowances have also increased.

What Is a Military Pay Raise?

You’ll often hear the phrase military pay raise in connection with compensation in the armed forces. The term Military pay raise is the annual increase in the base pay component of total compensation provided to U.S. service members. Basic pay is automatically increased by law at the start of each calendar year. 

According to the Employment Cost Index (ECI), each year, the year-over-year ECI indicator is positive (>0.00%).  For years in which the ECI is negative (aka, deflation), Military pay will stay unchanged vs the prior year.  

“Military pay will very rarely, if ever, come down when compared to the prior year.  In fact, every year since 1794, Military basic pay has either increased or stayed flat compared to the prior year’s pay level.  This is only in terms of the average nominal rate of increase in pay.  In terms of the real (inflation-adjusted) rate of increase, however, the long-term percentage rate of pay increases to U.S. Military service members has not always kept up with the general level of inflation in the U.S. economy over certain time periods.” –Brad Reichert

Since 1962, Title 37 of the United States Code has dictated how military pay adjustments will be automatically calculated.  However, this statutory adjustment can be made up or down by the U.S. Congress or the President.

How are Military Pay Raises Determined?

The Employment Cost Index (ECI) is a measure of the increase in salaries and wages in the private sector. ECI is calculated and updated every three months by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When the ECI is reported each year in October, the increase in this index versus the prior year is used to determine raises in military pay for the next fiscal year.

From 2000 to 2006, the raise in Military pay was set at ECI +1/2%. After 2006, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) established that pay raises will be equal to ECI.

The president or Congress can specify an alternative pay raise that supersedes this automatic adjustment.  They may also approve pay raises for other components of overall Military compensation, like Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Combat Pay.  

What Is the Military Pay Raise for 2024?

Congress approved the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in December 2023, and President Biden signed the annual bill into law. The bill backed the pay increase for reservists and active-duty service members. The pay increase went into effect on January 1, 2024.

Basic Pay Raise for 2024

The military pay raise for 2024 is 5.2%, which is the largest increase since 2002, when the pay raise was 6.9%. In comparison, the pay raise for fiscal year 2023 was 4.6%.

The increase in basic pay was set according to the established formula. The pay raise was part of the fiscal 2024 budget request and was included in the Senate, House, and conference versions of the NDAA before the President signed it into law.

BAH and BAS Rates for 2024

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) offsets costs for a service member’s meals. This allowance doesn’t cover the cost of the meals for family members; it is primarily intended to provide for service members only. The BAS rates for 2024 went up by 1.7% for enlisted members and officers. Here are the new BAS rates for 2024:

  • Officers: $316.98/month (up from $311.68 in 2023)
  • Enlisted Members: $460.25/month (up from $452.56 in 2023)

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) helps offset the cost of off-base housing for military personnel. The allowance amount depends on your pay grade, location, and number of dependents. The BAH rates for 2024 are an increase of 5.4%, compared to the 12.1% raise in 2023.  BAH rates typically follow the increase in the cost of housing for each area and are therefore highly dependent on geographic location. 

Military Veteran Pay Raise for 2024

Veterans and retirees receiving disability checks were also given a 3.2% cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) effective January 2024. Compared to the 8.7% COLA increase last year (2023), the 2024 increase is low, but it’s still higher than the average increase of 2.6% in the last two decades.

The COLA for 2024 means that those receiving monthly disability payments will receive an additional $32 for every $1,000 of veteran benefits they received in 2023. Payments for the Survivor Benefit Plan also increased by the same amount.

Historical Data on Military Pay Raises

Basic pay depends on your pay grade and years of service. The annual military pay raises are linked to the increase in wages in the private sector, as measured by the Employment Cost Index (ECI) unless the President or Congress sets a different raise.

Here are the basic pay raises for military members since 2007:

  • 1 January 2007: 2.2%
  • 1 April 2007: 0.5%*
  • 1 January 2008: 3.5%
  • 1 January 2009: 3.9%
  • 1 January 2010: 3.4%
  • 1 January 2011: 1.4%
  • 1 January 2012: 1.6%
  • 1 January 2013: 1.7%
  • 1 January 2014: 1.0%
  • 1 January 2015: 1.0%
  • 1 January 2016: 1.3%
  • 1 January 2017: 2.1%
  • 1 January 2018: 2.4%
  • 1 January 2019: 2.6%
  • 1 January 2020: 3.1%
  • 1 January 2021: 3.0%
  • 1 January 2022: 2.7%
  • 1 January 2023: 4.6%
  • 1 January 2024: 5.2%

Note: The 2007 military pay raise also targeted mid-grade and senior warrant and enlisted officers for an additional pay raise effective April 1, 2007.

The 2024 Military Pay Raise is the Largest in Decades

The 2024 military pay raise is the largest in two decades after the 6.9% increase in 2002. Basic pay raises help the DOD ensure that military members’ compensation, for the most part, keeps pace with the private-sector wages.

Military pay raises recognize the sacrifices of service members and help support them and their family members. Other than the basic pay, military members also receive a number of other benefits and allowances.

We recommend learning more about military pay tables on the Department of Defense’s Military Compensation website, including the bonuses you may be eligible for when you enlist as a member of the armed forces.