Help!!!! What is going on with DoD Data?

I’m trying to make sense of DoD data. I’m interested in figuring out how much active duty personnel got paid and how that changed over time. (Something I could use for my book, and also for an Angry Bear post or two.) After some scrounging, I realized I there are some tables and charts here and there with data on active duty military personnel and total active duty military payroll, and I could just divide payroll by personnel and voila… None of the tables spans the entire period I’m after (I really would like to have at least 1980 through 2004, if not 1960 through 2006), but I figured no big deal… I could cobble together a few different tables.

But there is a problem… the data doesn’t match for dates that overlap. Not even close.

As an example… from a Census table originally obtained from the DoD, we learn that in 1985, active duty military personnel numbered 1,354,000.

But table 529 of the 1988 Statistical Abstract of the United States, which also gets its data from the DoD, tells me that the active duty military personnel in 1985 numbered 2,151,000. That’s for starters…. (The numbers are different enough – we’re talking 800,000 people – that its not a rounding error or some minor adjustment.)

Am I missing something obvious? Anyone have any idea what is going on here? Alternatively, anyone have a good source for this data, yearly, running from 1980 or earlier to at least 2003 or 2004?