Reality-checking old Time magazine

By Thomas E. Ricks

By Matthew Collins
Best Defense office of military compensation analysis

Time magazine recently had an interesting article on defense spending. While it makes some good points about the need for a 12-carrier fleet when most countries survive with… none, he reached a bit too far at one point:

"Here’s a number that would make Wall Street weep: some 60 members of the crew of the carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln recently pocketed $3.4 million in bonuses –$57,000 each, tax-free — simply to re-enlist."

While a $57,000 tax-free check is no pittance, it is important to put that figure in perspective. These sailors got those bonuses for reenlisting, typically for 3 to 4 year stints, so they essentially signed up for a $15,000 pay raise. They were likely from the Navy Nuclear Power field, arguably the most technical enlisted specialty in the military. Ambitious dilettantes might learn to fly a plane or pick up a language as a hobby, but few people dabble in nuclear engineering.

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