IDF Pays More Than U.S. Army to Top Brass

The top guns in the U.S. Army may get one more star than their Israeli equivalents, but the IDF officers outstrip them in the salary stakes.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Chief of Staff General Benny Gantz in Jerrusalem, March 30, 2014.
Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Chief of Staff General Benny Gantz in Jerrusalem, March 30, 2014.Credit: David Azagury, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz excoriated critics of career officers in a series of well-timed interviews over the weekend. Gantz stressed the low salaries of young, noncommissioned officers who are on welfare and whose low salaries contribute to lowering the average wage in the IDF. He did not take advantage of the opportunity to demand fair salaries for conscript soldiers.

Gantz is right in his presentation of the basic equation – Israel needs an advanced army with professional, skilled personnel who see their service as a mission, but who also want to make a living and are pushed (by themselves or their families) to maximize the value of their abilities by seeking higher remuneration in the private sector.

But the chief of staff is barging into an open door. The top IDF brass already earns good money, even in comparison to the U.S. Army. The IDF data below are monthly salaries updated to 2012 – and have improved since then – while the American figures are current. The findings are surprising, perhaps even amazing: Senior IDF officers earn no less than their American counterparts. And it’s more worthwhile to be an Israeli general.

The IDF has three ranks equivalent to general and admiral (brigadier general, major general and lieutenant general). In the U.S. Army, there are dozens of even more senior generals and admirals, with four stars. That is the rank of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his deputy, and the chiefs of staff and commanders of the various theaters, but their salaries are higher – $21,147 a month.

While the course of service in each country’s army is not identical, the outcome is similar in terms of salary and benefits. Seniority in Gantz’s salary is calculated from the time he was drafted into the IDF at age 18. An American officer such as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, begins to amass seniority at age 22, as a graduate of West Point. But Dempsey will retire at age 62-63, while Gantz will do so at age 55-56. If the two generals had taken the trouble to compare their salary chits when they met in Tel Aviv this month, they would have found that Gantz is making more than Dempsey.

The salary of the chief of staff in Israel is higher than those of his three-star brethren stationed in the Pentagon – such as the chief of human resources for the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, and the director of the Joint Staff, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Goldfein. Bromberg, an air defense officer, is already nearing retirement, but fighter pilot Goldfein still has his future ahead of him.

An Israeli lieutenant general earns 77,605 shekels a month, while an American lieutenant general gets the equivalent of 61,026 shekels (based on 3.5 shekels to the dollar).

The Israeli chief of staff also earns more than four-star generals (69,167 shekels, or $19,762) and in the salary finals beats the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A general in the IDF earns 57,476 shekels a month, while his American counterpart earns 50,183 shekels. An Israeli brigadier general earns 48,055 shekels, while an American one receives 43,214 shekels.

The picture starts to change at the rank of colonel, where an Israeli earns 36,852 shekels and an American 37,954 shekels. At lieutenant colonel, it’s 29,021 shekels as opposed to 30,362 shekels.

A major’s salary clearly tilts in favor of the Americans – Israeli majors earn 19,352 shekels as opposed to the Americans’ 25,746 shekels. American captains earn twice as much as their Israeli counterparts: 22,057 shekels, compared to 11,188 shekels.

A lieutenant general in the IDF earns 13.7 times more than a second lieutenant, while the salary of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is only 5.8 times more than an American second lieutenant. It turns out that there is less of an income gap in the U.S. Army than the IDF.

The purchasing power of the dollar is greater than the shekel, but without the annual $3 billion in military aid the IDF would have to sacrifice something from the salary of its top brass to buy equipment.

Israeli society should indeed compensate its soldiers well. Sergeants and lieutenants risk themselves more than generals, and earn a fraction of what the latter do. If Gantz is truly worried about the lower ranks, let him do his part to reduce the gap between them and senior officers.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.Credit: Shiran Ganot

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