WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump assumed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff earned a multi-million-dollar salary until he was corrected by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The anecdote about Trump significantly overestimating the salary of the nation’s top military officer came as part of a larger report on the president’s lack of knowledge about federal salaries, spending and deficits. According to the paper, the topic came up while Kelly and Trump were watching television together in recent months.
The newspaper reported that when Kelly asked Trump how much he thought the Joint Chiefs chairman earns, the president responded with a guess of $5 million. The post actually pays less than $200,000.
According to the report, when corrected by Kelly, Trump suggested that Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, should get a large raise and noted how many stars he had on his uniform.
The Joint Chiefs chairman post also receives an additional personal stipend and other perks, but their value totals well below the $5 million mark. White House officials have not commented on the report.
Trump frequently praises the military in public speeches, but has made several mistakes in reference to military pay over the last year.
On several occasions, he has claimed that he gave military members their first raise in a decade as part of the fiscal 2019 defense budget. In fact, troops have received a pay raise every year since the 1970s. The 2.6 percent pay raise is the largest the force has seen in a decade, but is based on a formula calculating the expected rise in civilian salaries.
Trump has opposed plans for pay raises of government employees outside the military, and has repeatedly promised to cut what he sees as wasteful spending in federal operations.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.