What are the benefits of being a civilian Army employee?

Okay, so I didn’t get that last job, but I did get an interview scheduled for another one - on our local Army base. It would be (obviously) a civilian job, comes out of NAF funds.

Again it would be a pay cut if I got it. However, I’d know a little more about whether I’d want to consider it if I knew more about the benefits. I was looking around on the various websites but it’s sort of unclear, so I thought maybe some of you would know. (Of course I would ask all about this if offered the job, but I’d like to have some idea going in.)

My husband works on post, but he’s a contractor. He can’t use pretty much anything there that he couldn’t use as somebody without any special access at all. Are government employees the same? I know they can’t use the exchange, but what about other stuff like the entertainment options or the gyms or daycare facilities?

What does the insurance tend to be like? The information I could find indicates it’s really expensive, but it doesn’t tell me if it’s subsidized at all or if the price I’m seeing is the real price.

Essentially, are there any benefits to the base if you’re not a soldier or family? Because there are plenty of drawbacks - it’s a pain in the ass to get on, the insurance looks expensive, the Army takes for-freaking-ever to cross the road, it’s a weirdly conservative environment, etc. There’s always base closure to worry about, the population is transient, god knows it’s an alphabet soup, all that. Although it would be nice to not have drunk bums ogling me at work. So that’s one positive, many negatives - are there any other positives?


I don’t have time for a longer answer at the moment, but generally the government will pay 75% of your health insurance premiums. There will, of course, be deductibles, co-pays, etc. for whatever plan you choose. You will have a choice of plans.

I worked for the Navy as a GS for 12 years and found the insurance plans to be pretty good.

General Schedule (GS) civilian jobs have great benefits, as mentioned above, but they also have a Pension, and after 3 years, you are nearly unfirable, unless you really screw up, kinda like “tenure.”

Pay is pretty competitive too, depending on the field.

I’m currently a contract employee under the DOD, not nearly as good benefits, and we are basically expendable, sometimes we make more than our GS counterparts, but not always, and sometimes when contracts are renegotiated, we lose pay.

Oh yes, the pension thing. Here’s how that works. A small amount - like less than 1% of your income - will be deducted from your salary and go toward a traditional pension. Federal pensions these days are small.

The thing you want to do as soon as you are eligible to do so is contribute to the federal Thrift Savings Plan, which is a 401(k). The government will contribute an amount equal to 1% of your salary to that regardless of whether you pay in or not, and then match your contributions dollar for dollar up to 3% of your salary, and fifty cents on the dollar for the next 2%, up to 5% total. I always made sure to put 5% of my salary in to get the maximum matching contributions. You can also keep your money in the plan if you leave government service. I have a nice amount in there now. IIRC, you become vested in agency contributions after 5 years.

What other benefits you’d get working on a military base are going to depend on its facilities. When I worked for the Navy there was a daycare on base that civilian employees where eligible to use, but as you might imagine there was a waiting list a mile long.

My command had its own little exercise room that we put together and anyone in the command could use that. We had a treadmill, weights, etc. Civilians aren’t eligible to use the exchanges, chow hall, etc. but we had a snack bar in the building that anyone could buy things from.

As for salaries, you generally start on the bottom rung of whatever grade you are hired in at, and you get step increases the first four years on the job, plus cost of living increases if Congress approves one. Raises come every two years for the next 4 step increases after that, and then every 3 years. But - depending on what grade you are hired in, you may also get a grade increase, and changing jobs can also get you a higher grade.

Also, the people in the military are just like any other people and you will find they hold a number of viewpoints - they are not monolithically conservative by any means.

Oh, wow, you start on the bottom of the job range? Because that is… low. I assumed it was like in civilian life where you can expect to start in the middle.

Depends what grade you are being offered. Most jobs start at GS-5 at a minimum, and go up from there. The national GS-5, step 1 is $28,262, which isn’t a fortune but seems to be a good starting salary.

As for base benefits, the PX and such will not (unless you are retired military), but things like the gym, bowling alley, and such should be available (your base should probably have a webpage, you can probably check there).

And the retirement and health plans are pretty good, if you plan on making this a career (I did, and am retiring a GS-13 with nearly 35 years of service).

Never mind. :slight_smile:

If you make more now than the starting salary at whatever grade this job is, you may be able to negotiate to match it. No way to know without applying, though.

Here’s a table that lists the General Schedule pay grades and what the step increases are.

Some places might vary, but getting on post typically becomes easier once you’re employed, as you will get a hang tag for your windshield that lets them wave you on in.

There is a certain amount of workplace security once you’re in, such that you need your ID card to get in to certain areas and to log onto your computer. That sort of thing is standard for federal employment (albeit maybe a bit more uptight within DOD), but it may be different from wherever you previously worked in the private sector.

My wife works at an Army facility here in the DC area, and the fact that she has free, secure parking is a plus, but that may not be a big deal where you are. She has access to the gym but cannot use the PX or commissary, nor is she supposed to use the gas station.

The thing about getting on post is that even if you work there and have a permit, it’s a huge basic training facility and it has a graduation Every. Goddamned. Week.

That means Wednesdays and Thursdays are an epic clusterfuck. Even if the gates weren’t always a pain in the ass normally, they’re just gonna be an extra pain in the ass on those days.

But the gates always are a pain in the ass. Luckily my husband works a job where they don’t have to staff a desk or anything, so people understand if you’re late. Because you’re late half the time. This job would have a different starting time, so it might not be as much of a problem, but at 7:30 it is a mess.

Okay, romansperson, I’m a little confused by this chart. Is a GS job different from a NAF job?

I don’t know how it is in the non-tech sector, but if you are qualified and are coming from a job paying more than Step 1, you can negotiate. Doesn’t always work out. I personally know of two instances where they negotiated a higher step (and stories of others doing it) - One guy was a contractor going to a GS-11 position, He negotiated a step 5, and another guy, more recently, was making 90k as a mobile developer and showed his pay stub and everything (was trying to get a step 8 or greater for a GS-11 position) and only managed a step 5. Maybe that’s the maximum. He felt the GS benefits and possible stability were worth the pay cut and took it anyway (Sadly, I had also applied for this position, and he was more qualified)

NAF jobs are a bit different, from here:

Yes, sorry! I missed the NAF part. The funds for GS jobs come from Congress - NAF employees’ salaries are paid by the revenue generated by that service’s on-base activities, usually recreational stuff. They are still considered federal jobs. The benefits are still pretty good. Don’t know what the salary structure is for them.

Heh, I bet the library there doesn’t waive fines like we do here. I promise you if they paid my salary with that money I’d be a whole lot stricter!