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The latest Pentagon budget calls for a one-year pay freeze for all general and flag officers.
But that might not hit the top brass in the wallet as hard as you might think.
Pay for general and flag officers is already artificially capped by the Executive Schedule that limits compensation for high-level officials across the government.
So, for example, even though a four-star officer with more than 32 years in uniform warrants a monthly salary of $17,925 according to the military pay chart, he is legally allowed to receive only the Executive Schedule Level II cap, which this year is $15,125 per month.
About 100 three- and four-star officers are butting up against that pay cap because their monthly military pay rates are above the governmentwide pay ceiling.
But what happens if the federal government lifts that pay cap next year, as is usually the case? Will the top brass get a back-door pay raise?
No, according to a defense official.
Pentagon budget experts took this into account. Buried inside the budget proposal that will go to Capitol Hill on March 4 is a provision that will cap general and flag officer salaries at 2014 levels regardless of whether the Executive Schedule Level II cap rises, according to a defense official familiar with the budget.
But with the freeze in effect for only one year, it is unclear whether monthly pay for the most senior officers will be allowed to rise to the full Level II cap in 2016.
Financially, those officers may do almost as well if they retire, because their retirement pay is based on their uncapped basic pay rates and is not affected by the Level II caps.
The 1 percent raise proposed by the Pentagon for all other troops in 2015 would match the pay raise approved this year. That is the smallest annual bump since the advent of the all-volunteer era in 1973.