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An officer in the Army serves in a broad range of positions depending on years of service, rank and occupational specialty. New officers are commonly new graduates from the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs in universities across the country, from Officer Candidate School (OCS) or West Point. Once on active duty, officers can expect to make salaries in proportion to rank, years of experience, location and number of dependents.
Basic pay is the salary officers receive and depends on rank and time in service. According to the pay in effect for 2010, an officer in the Army makes between $2,745.60 and $18,675.30 per month. Naturally, the lowest ranking, less experienced officers make less than senior officers. For example, a new 2nd lieutenant recently graduated from a university ROTC program or West Point without previous military experience makes $2,745.60 monthly. A captain with five years of service makes $4,883.40, while a major general with more than 30 years of service makes $13,219.20 per month.
Housing and Subsistence
Officers in the U.S. Army receive allowances to cover the cost of housing and meals. The housing allowance is called the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and the food allowance is called the Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS). According to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), BAH depends on rank, number of dependents and zip code. For example, as of January 2010, a 2nd lieutenant stationed in Fort Drum, New York without dependents is entitled to receive $1179 in BAH. A lieutenant colonel with a family of three stationed in Fort Drum receives $1944 in BAH. In addition to BAH, officers receive an additional flat rate of $223.04 monthly as of January 2010.
Cost of Living
The cost of living allowance (COLA) is afforded to officers stationed in parts of the country with high living expenses. According to the Defense Department, officers receive the cost of living allowance if non-housing expenses are 8 percent more expensive than the costs on a typical military base. Cost of living allowances vary by location but calculations are based on a basket of goods including the cost of home cooked meals, dining out, tobacco, furnishings, alcohol, clothing, medical care, domestic services, personal care and transportation. According to the Department of Defense, officers stationed in New York City, Long Island, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Detroit receive the highest COLA rates.
Officers working in high-skill capacities in the Army earn additional allowances. For example, the pay chart for 2010 shows that officers serving in a medical capacity with at least three years of service but less than six years receive an additional $416.66 per month. Medical officers with at least six years but less than eight receive $1000 per month. Officers in the dental field with at least three years of experience but less than eight earn an additional $583.33 per month. Those with at least eight years but less than 12 years of experience receive an extra $1,000 per month.
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service: 2010 Basic Pay Chart
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service: Allowances
- Department of Defense: 2010 CONUS COLA Locations
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service: Incentive & Special Pay
- Internal Revenue Service: Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide
- Internal Revenue Service: Tax Information for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces