Military pay is based on an officer's years of service, rank, and path as an enlisted or commissioned officer. These rates are reviewed and updated each year as part of the national defense budget.
Unlike commissioned officers, who receive an ongoing base salary, reserve officers are paid based on drill exercises they complete for their ongoing training and conditioning. Let's take a look at how this works and what the rates are as of January 1, 2021.
What Is the Military Pay Raise for 2021?
All military officers receive what's called "basic pay" as part of their compensation package. This base salary is typically the main component of an officer's pay, and it is set to increase each year based on the Employment Cost Index (ECI).
The President and Congress do have the power to override this pay increase by veto when reviewing the annual National Defense Authorization Act. The 2021 act was held up in a veto by President Trump, who argued the bill didn't meet some of his administration's goals for national security. However, Congress overrode Trump's veto and the bill passed, including a 3% raise in base pay for all service members that went into effect January 1, 2021.
The base pay is the same across all service branches and is based on rank and time in service, with pay raises according to years of creditable service.
Enlisted vs. Commissioned Officers
There are two distinct career paths in the military: commissioned and enlisted officers. Commissioned officers are effectively the managers of the military, while enlisted officers serve in specific skill areas. The pay scales for each reflect their different degrees of responsibility.
Each military service has its own names for the various enlisted ranks. Most enlisted members enter the military at the lowest pay grade (E-1) and climb the pay scale to higher positions with greater pay. Enlisted pay grades range from E-1 through E-9 ("E" represents Enlisted).
To gain the pay advantages of a commissioned officer, some enter the military with a higher education degree and begin their military careers through one of the officer candidate schools. Some are high school graduates who attend a service academy or a civilian college while participating in a Reserve Officer Training Corps ROTC program.
Many enlisted officers choose to enter the military reserves, serving part time and occasionally being called to active duty.
What Is Drill Pay?
Base pay for military members depends on several factors, including whether they are serving in active duty or the reserves. Active duty members receive full-time pay, while National Guard and reserve members who are not on active duty receive part-time pay, or drill pay, depending on the number of drills they perform each month.
2021 Reserve Enlisted Military Drill Pay Chart
The basic pay charts below are for reserve enlisted members of the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard for the calendar year 2021. The pay rates are monthly amounts rounded to the nearest U.S. dollar. Reservist Pay is 1/30th of active duty military pay for one drill day. This pay scale is for four drills a month, which is equal to a regular drill weekend per month, plus two weeks of active duty each year.
The military maintains various other types of compensation that are not included as part of the pay tables below. Additionally, there are certain allowances provided such as a clothing allowance, basic allowance for housing, and a cost-of-living allowance.
Less Than 8 Years of Service
|Pay Grade||≤ 2 years||> 2 years||> 3 years||> 4 years||> 6 years|
8 to 18 Years of Service
|Pay Grade||> 8 years||> 10 years||> 12 years||> 14 years||> 16 years|
18 to 28 Years of Service
|Pay Grade||> 18 years||> 20 years||> 22 years||> 24 years||> 26 years|
There are no further drill pay increases beyond 28 years for any rank except for E-9.