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ARLINGTON, Va. — Money isn’t everything, especially when soldiers compare cash with the satisfaction “of protecting this great country,” Army Secretary Francis Harvey, said Tuesday.

“If your objective in life is to make a ton of money, I suggest you not become a soldier,” the top Army civilian told reporters in a Washington breakfast session.

“If you want to have a way of life” that includes “becoming a better citizen” and “protecting American values,” than soldiering is a good choice, he said.

It’s true, Harvey said, that some soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have expressed anger and unhappiness at working side by side with contractors who earn double or even triple the military’s base pay.

But such comparisons are pointless, Harvey said.

“It’s just kind of a superficial argument,” he said, because “compensation is one component” of the Army pay and benefits package.

“Many of these contractors have no health benefits, no pensions,” and lack other benefits the Army routinely provides, Harvey said.

When soldiers factor in other benefits, such as housing and health care, the gap in pay between contractors and military personnel starts to narrow, he said.

Besides, there is no salary that can compare with the “satisfaction as a soldier of protecting the American way of life,” Harvey said.

Army officials will continue to work to provide well-rounded compensation packages for soldiers, but “we’re not going to try and compete with the private sector” on salaries, Harvey said.

For those soldiers who remain unsatisfied by the money they are earning compared to contractors, Harvey said, there’s always life after retirement.

“When all is said and done, in 20 years you will have a skill and you can and go into the private sector and make huge bucks,” Harvey said.

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