Who Is Good for Military Pay?

What Congress pays the military is always a cause for media attention.  After seeing this article  (Careful! It is rife with obvious political motivations and poor data analysis) posted on Facebook; I thought it would be interesting to explore the trends in military pay increases over the past few decades.  This first chart shows how changes in military pay stacks up against federal civilian counterparts and inflation.

Military and Federal Civilian Pay Increases

Inflation is a major factor in military pay changes.  If a pay increase is lower than inflation it is a de facto pay cut.  This next chart shows inflation adjusted pay changes with annotations by who was President at the time.

Inflation Adjusted Military Pay Increases

One thing is clear, President GW Bush (with a Republican Congress and Senate) was very good for military pay.  In fact, in 2003 the military received a single year pay increase that is almost twice as much as the entire Obama administration combined.  However, the two largest net decreases came from Republican Presidents, Reagan and Bush (though the Congress and Senate where Democrat).  This last view shows how aggregate military pay increases stack up against inflation, federal civilians, Congress and the President.

Change in $1 of Pay for US Federal Employee Since 1984

It is evident that military pay exceeds all other categories after the significant increases in the in the early 2000's.  Another interesting observation is that Congressional pay is increased significantly when Democrats are in office but has been 0% when Republicans are in control over the past two decades.  For example, there has not been a Congressional pay increase since 2010 when control of the house shifted.