He commands a military of 59,000 uniformed personnel, oversees an annual $34 billion budget and advises the government on life and death decisions that can place Australians in harm’s way.
The chief of the Australian Defence Force also takes home a salary well over $800,000, and shortly the Prime Minister will announce which senior officer will next hold the prestigious position.
Whoever replaces Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin in July will earn vastly more than their British and American counterparts, both of whom command much larger militaries.
In Britain, head of armed forces Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach has an annual salary of between 255,000 and 259,000 pounds ($468,000–$475,000) before tax, according to data published by the UK Ministry of Defence.
General Joseph Dunford, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is paid just over $245,000, topped up with a personal allowance of $5172, according to The Times newspaper.
Salaries for Australia’s Defence chiefs are set by the independent Remuneration Tribunal, which also determines the wages for politicians, bureaucrats, judges and other Commonwealth officials.
The current “three-star” officers considered most likely to be tapped for the “four-star” role are: vice chief of defence, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs; chief of army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell; and chief of joint operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston.
Vice chief of defence, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs
Vice Admiral Griggs assumed command of the Anzac Class frigate HMAS Arunta in October 2001.
In 2010, he was appointed to the position of deputy chief of joint operations and then became chief of navy in 2011.
He has served as vice chief of defence since 2014.
Chief of army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell
Lieutenant General Campbell was appointed commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, of the Royal Australian Regiment in 2001.
In 2005, he joined the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and eventually became deputy national security adviser.
He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 2013 to command Operation Sovereign Borders and has served as chief of army since 2015.
Chief of joint operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston
Vice Admiral Johnston served as the commanding officer of guided missile frigates HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Newcastle.
He assumed the role of deputy chief joint operations command in 2011 and in the same year, was appointed commander of the Border Protection Command.
He has served as Chief of Joint Operations since 2014.
So who’s the frontrunner?
Lieutenant General Campbell, who rose to public prominence in 2013 as the first commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, is considered by many as the early favourite, but all three candidates are highly regarded by their colleagues as well as their political masters.
A decision is expected to be made by the National Security Committee of Cabinet “imminently” and unveiled by the Prime Minister shortly.