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How Much Does the Secretary of Defense Make in a Year?

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The United States secretary of defense leads all military branches of service. He is appointed by the president, supports the military mission set by the president and serves as his top military policy adviser. The secretary of defense also heads the Pentagon and helps formulate general defense policy. Most defense secretaries work years in government or military service before being appointed to the Pentagon's highest position. Many have advanced degrees.

Cabinet Position

The president's cabinet consists of Level 1 executives called secretaries who lead major government departments. The secretary of defense holds one of these positions. At the beginning of 2014, the salary for a Level 1 executive was $201,700 a year. However, with the executive level pay freeze on political appointments, the pay reverted back to the 2013 pay of $199,700 effective January 26, 2014.

Retirement and Health Care

The secretary of defense receives retirement benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System, or FERS. He follows the same guidelines as all federal employees. The amount of retirement he receives will depend on his age at retirement and years of federal service. The majority of individuals who have served as the secretary of defense have also served in the armed forces and their military years count toward federal service for retirement. The secretary of defense also receives comprehensive health insurance as a federal employee. The Office of the Secretary of Defense has its own human resources center under the Department of Defense Washington Headquarters Service that handles the secretary's health care insurance.


Michelle Dwyer is a U.S. Army veteran writing fiction and nonfiction since 2003. She specializes in business, careers, leadership, military affairs and organizational change and behavior. Dwyer received an MBA from Tarleton State University/Texas A&M Central Texas and an MFA in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, Calif.

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