Discerning Military Rank and Pay Before Reaching Out

After you’ve identified rank, it’s on to military pay grade. While pay grades are administrative classifications used for salary purposes, they are also tied to ranks. U.S. military pay grades are the same for each branch:

Enlisted Personnel (E1-to E-9)

  • Comprised of junior enlisted, non-commissioned officer (NCO) and senior NCO ranks, enlisted service members make up more than 80% of the military and are responsible for carrying out missions.

Warrant Officers (W-1 to W-5)

  • Less common than enlisted service members and officers, warrant officers rank above non-commissioned officers and serve as highly skilled technical experts in areas like engineering and intelligence.

Commissioned Officers (O-1 to O-10)

  • Occupying the highest ranks in the chain of command, commissioned officers require additional training and education. Officers manage and lead enlisted personnel, and are also comprised of three tiers.

Civilian/Military Equivalent Rates

So, how do civilian pay scales come into play with military ranks and pay grades? Although the military follows a different pay structure than civilians, pay scale information is still comparable:

Civilian GradeMilitary GradeMilitary RankGS-13O-4Major, Lieutenant CommanderGS-14O-5Lieutenant Colonel, CommanderGS-15O-6Colonel, CaptainSES (ES Level V)O-7Brigadier General, Rear Admiral Lower HalfSES (ES Level IV)O-8Major General, Rear Admiral Upper HalfSES (ES Level III)O-9Lieutenant General, Vice AdmiralSES (ES Levels I and II)O-10General, Admiral

At the top of the chain of command, pay grades O-7 through O-10 can be compared to the Senior Executive Service (SES) and consist of the most senior-level commissioned military personnel — flag and general officers. Generals and admirals (grade O-10) technically fall under SES Level 1, but these ranks align more with PAS in terms of authority.

Because it can be more difficult to schedule a meeting or develop a relationship with a PAS appointee or with a member of the SES due to busy schedules and constant messages from various vendors, targeting a GS-13-15 may prove to be more successful.

These senior GS roles are comprised of supervisory positions that wield influence and have direct access to SES appointees, Schedule Cs, and other policymakers. In the military, grades O-4 through O-6 are equivalent to GS-13 through GS-15.

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These ranks also make up most military and special assistant positions that directly support military leaders. In addition, other junior officers in equivalent or lower grades may serve in support roles, such as Aide-de-Camp or Military Aide.

Planning the Call

Regardless of whether you plan on contacting military or civilian defense leaders, comprehending rank dynamics will lead to better interactions overall. Remember, preparing a strategy is essential, especially with shifting dynamics across the globe. Knowing who to contact, when to contact them, and having alternatives to accomplish your mission will be key in short-term and long-term policymaking.

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