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Thursday, Jan 26, 2023
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Military Compensation Average Outpaces Civilian Pay Locally

San Diego’s active duty military personnel are “a force for good,” as the Navy says in a televised ad, and especially good for the local economy.

The most direct impact from the 133,000 uniformed service members, reserves, and civilian personnel working for the Defense Department is from the paychecks they receive.

According to a recent study of the military’s impact by the San Diego Military Advisory Council, which produced the report in conjunction with the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, total salaries and nonwage compensation for the entire group was nearly $12 billion in 2013.

Yet adding retirement and benefits, it’s about $15.5 billion, data assembled in the report shows.

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Looking at data culled by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the total wages paid to all military personnel in the county for 2012 was nearly $9 billion. That number apparently includes veterans’ benefits and such items as housing allotments, said economist Kelly Cunningham of the National University System Institute for Policy Research.

Compensation Comparison

By taking the total compensation paid that year and dividing by the total active duty employees, Cunningham came up with an average annual compensation for those in the military of $86,000.

“If you look at the average compensation for the military, it’s more than doubled over the past decade,” Cunningham said. “It used to be that military pay was lower than the county average, but that’s not true anymore.”

He did the same calculation’s using BEA data and found the average compensation of all jobs in the county in 2012 to be $70,638.

Of course, most of the rank and file enlisted Navy and Marine Corps employees will tell you their paychecks aren’t even close to Cunningham’s analysis.

The great bulk of Navy personnel here are most likely found in the pay rates of E-3 to E-6, said Brian O’Rourke, spokesman for Navy Region Southwest in San Diego.

Using a table for the U.S. military pay for enlisted and commissioned officers, the lowest E-3 service member with less than two years’ experience is paid $21,664 annually. For an E-6 member with three years’ experience, the salary goes to nearly $33,000.

The lowest paid commissioned officer is paid about $35,000. The starting salary for a Navy lieutenant junior grade is about $38,000, but that doesn’t include various monthly allowances covering such things as housing, food and clothing and retirement benefits, according to Military-ranks.org.

More detailed salary data and a breakdown of enlisted and officers for the area wasn’t immediately available. But several sources said enlisted personnel make up the vast majority of military employees here, with a probable split of 80 percent enlisted to 20 percent officers.

Where They Serve

Of the 133,000 military personnel, about 51,400 are with the Navy; 49,100 are with the U.S. Marine Corps; 23,900 are civilian workers; and 8,500 are with reserve forces, according to SDMAC.

One of every four Marines in the nation is based here, mostly at Camp Pendleton, which is home to 36,000 Marines. One of every seven of the Navy’s total employees is in San Diego, with the largest local presence at Naval Base San Diego, also known as 32nd Street Naval Station, having about 18,000.

Civilian military employees are spread out over a variety of bases in the county but for those attached to the Navy are prominent at the Navy’s North Island base, where many are involved in maintaining aircraft, and at the 32nd Street Naval Station where a large number work on maintaining and refurbishing ships, O’Rourke said.

In some Navy bases, there’s a heavy civil service contingent of workers, and some in San Diego, particularly the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, also called Spawar, which conducts high-level research on information systems and technology development, the work force has a higher proportion of engineers, computer scientists, mathematicians, and program managers, and are mostly higher compensated positions, said O’Rourke.

According to the SDMAC report, nearly half of Spawar’s 10,000 global employees are based in San Diego, making that unit one of the area’s largest employers.

Cunningham said the military presence here and its payrolls have a huge impact on the local economy, particularly for the businesses serving military employees and their families.

But while these impacts are significant, “it’s not as significant as the procurement contract part of what happens in San Diego,” Cunningham said.

Private contractors such as General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics Nassco, and BAE Systems all have sizable contracts with Defense Department and employ thousands of workers here, he said.

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