The cost of military pay raises and benefits programs, which have increased almost 90 percent since 2001, have become the fastest-growing part of the Pentagon’s budget and now account for more than a quarter of all defense spending. Here is a look at the types of compensation provided to active-duty troops and retirees, how those costs have grown and where they are headed. Read related article.

Military salaries have grown at a faster rate than those of civilian workers over the past decade.

After 20 years, military personnel become eligible for a pension, which they start getting upon retirement. This leads many to leave soon after two decades of service.

Though the number of new retirees each year is holding steady, those who already have retired are living longer, raising the overall cost of paying lifetime pensions.

The military’s size is projected to shrink, but overall personnel costs are predicted to rise significantly because of efforts by Congress to increase pay and allowances above the inflation rate.

Health care for active-duty troops and retirees is growing faster than any other part of the base defense budget. The biggest driver of costs over the past decade has been a program called Tricare for Life, created by Congress, which offers secondary coverage to Medicare for all military retirees 65 and older.

Housing allowance (tax free)
Food allowance (tax free)
Free health care
Defense schools (on some bases)
Subsidized child care
Education (tuition allowance and G.I. Bill)

Low-cost health care
Access to commissaries
and other base amenities

SOURCES: Congressional Budget Office; Defense Business Board; Department of Defense; Kaiser Family Foundation. PHOTOS: U.S. Army