Pay Parity For Federal Employees and Military?

Will military and federal civilians receive the same pay raise in 2018? Here is how pay raises compare for the past 10 years.

The new budget deal that may end up keeping the federal government running until the end of the fiscal year on September 30 has this tidbit that will interest some readers: “The bill also fully funds the authorized 2.1 percent pay raise for the military, instead of 1.6 percent as requested by the previous Administration.”

A 2018 Federal Employee Pay Raise?

For those who pay close attention to a federal pay raise, the administration has previously indicated an intent to propose an average raise of 1.9% for 2018 for federal civilian employees. Could the proposal to provide a 2.1 percent for the military translate into a higher raise for federal civilians?

While an average pay raise differential between 2.1 percent and 1.9 percent is not a big difference, based on anecdotal evidence, most readers who are current federal employees would like to see a bigger pay raise.

Pay Parity in Pay Increases?

Is there usually parity in pay increases between federal civilian employees and military personnel?

Negotiations on the 2018 pay raise for federal employees are likely to include arguments that the pay raise should be the same for both military and civilian employees.

For example, uniformed military personnel were given a 1.6% pay increase in 2012 through an executive order issued by President Obama. After a two year pay freeze and only a 0.5% proposal for a pay raise in 2013, advocates for federal civilians seeking a higher pay raise looked to the precedent for pay parity with the military as a case for increasing the 2013 raise.

The argument did not work. There was no increase for federal civilians and the partial pay freeze continued through 2013. The military received a pay raise of 1.7% in 2013.

Back in 2009, Congress passed a resolution supporting the idea of pay parity with regard to a 2010 pay raise for federal employees. President Obama had requested federal employees to “sacrifice” by taking a pay raise of 2%. He also proposed a raise of 2.9% for military personnel. In 2010, the average pay raise ended up being 2%. The military ultimately received an average pay raise of 3.4% after the House and Senate Armed Services Committees recommended a 3.4% military pay increase.

Military vs. Federal Civilian Pay Raises

While pay parity can be used as an effective argument, that argument does not always win out. The argument has worked at times but there are often differences between military and civilians in annual average pay raises.

There are five years between 2007 and 2017 when the military received a higher pay raise than civilians. There have not been any years when federal civilians received a higher pay raise than the military.

Probably the biggest reason for this is that military personnel are often perceived as being in a more dangerous occupation than federal civilian employees. When military personnel are in war zones, as has been the case over the past 10 years, this is undoubtedly a persuasive rationale for a higher military raise.

Here is how the average military and civilian pay raises have come out in the past 10 years:

Year Military Raise Fed Civilian Raise
2007 2.7% 2.2%
2008 3.5% 3.5%
2009 3.9% 3.9%
2010 3.4% 2%
2011 1.4% 0%
2012 1.6% 0%
2013 1.7% 0%
2014 1% 1%
2015 1% 1%
2016 1.3% 1.3%
2017 2.1% 2.1%

What will happen in 2018 is, of course, anybody’s guess.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47