Service members sit in classroom

Military Pay 101: Basic Pay, Allowances and S&I Pay

As an active-duty service member, you receive many benefits and entitlements like free access to Military OneSource services and support. One of the primary benefits to working in the military is a steady paycheck and tax-free allowances. Here’s a summary of the different military pay elements you might see on your monthly Leave and Earnings Statement.

Basic pay chart and raises

Pay Raise for 2020

Military personnel are receiving a 3.1% increase in their basic pay in 2020. This raise is for both active-duty and reserve service members.

Basic pay is a service member’s primary compensation. Two main factors affect where you fall on the basic pay scale: your years of service and your rank, which generally corresponds with your military pay grade.

Basic pay rates are calculated monthly, rather than weekly or bimonthly, and are subject to taxes like civilian pay. And – just like salaried civilians in the private sector – you’re not eligible for overtime pay. Your monthly pay is automatically split in half and distributed twice a month, but if you’re in the Army or Air Force, you can opt to receive a monthly lump sum instead.

Use the military pay charts below for a sample of service members’ 2020 active-duty pay rates.

A Sample of Monthly Active-Duty Enlisted Pay Scale for 2020 (all branches)

Years of Service
Pay Grades
<2 4 6 10 20 30 40
E-2 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50 $1,942.50
E-3 $2,042.70 $2,302.80 $2,302.80 $2,302.80 $2,302.80 $2,302.80 $2,302.80
E-4 $2,262.60 $2,634.60 $2,746.50 $2,746.50 $2,746.50 $2,746.50 $2,746.50
E-6 $2,693.70 $3,222.30 $3,354.90 $3,769.80 $4,172.10 $4,172.10 $4,172.10
E-9 - - - $5,472.90 $6,419.40 $7,706.40 $8,497.50

A Sample of Monthly Active-Duty Officer Pay Scale for 2020 (all branches)

Years of Service
Pay Grades
<2 4 6 10 20 30 40
O-1 $3,287.10 $4,136.40 $4,136.40 $4,136.40 $4,136.40 $4,136.40 $4,136.40
O-2 $3,787.50 $5,135.70 $5,241.30 $5,241.30 $5,241.30 $5,241.30 $5,241.30
O-4 $4,985.40 $6,241.80 $6,599.10 $7,460.40 $8,324.10 $8,324.10 $8,324.10
O-6 $6,931.20 $8,114.40 $8,145.30 $8,540.70 $10,890.90 $12,270.30 $12,270.30
O-8 $10,999.50 $11,666.10 $11,964.60 $12,579.00 $14,730.00 $15,471.30 $15,857.40
O-10 - - - - $16,441.80 $16,441.80 $16,441.80

Basic pay rates are automatically adjusted according to the annual Employment Cost Index, which compares military pay with growth in private sector wages. Additional pay raises above the ECI adjustment may be approved and funded by Congress.

Basic Allowance for Housing and other common military allowances

In addition to your basic pay, you may also receive additional “allowances.” Most allowances are non-taxable, which make them a significant portion of your paycheck.

The Basic Allowance for Housingadd
The Basic Allowance for Subsistenceadd
Other allowances add

Special and Incentive pays

Special and Incentive pays are ways to earn over and above your basic rate or allowances, regardless of your time in the service or pay grade. They help the Department of Defense ensure that the right people are where they need to be to keep the country safe.

Some types of S&I pays include:

  • Hardship Duty Pay for service members assigned to places where the standard of living is significantly below that of the continental United States
  • Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay for those assigned to specific regions where they may be subject to hostile actions like enemy fire or mines
  • Assignment Incentive Pay for service members on extended tours or certain unusual assignments
  • Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay for those on specific types of flying duty such as parachute jumping, flight deck duty or experimental stress duty – also known as “flight pay” for aircrew members

Your take-home pay will be impacted by automatic deductions for things like taxes and Thrift Savings Plan contributions. If you’ve got any questions about payments or deductions, a Military OneSource financial counselor is happy to walk you through your Leave and Earnings Statement at no cost.