Assessing Trends in Military Personnel Costs

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) employs over 2.2 million people, including almost 1.4 million active duty personnel as of FY 2020. While today’s U.S. military is near its smallest size since the end of World War II in terms of active duty end strength, personnel costs are at a historic high—surpassed only by the height of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Left unaddressed, high personnel costs may limit resources for Department of Defense (DoD) modernization initiatives and could threaten the long-term sustainability of the force. This report examines trends in military personnel costs and the key drivers of growth observed over the past several decades in areas including compensation and force composition, military healthcare, and retirement benefits.

This report is made possible by project support from General Atomics.