Rear admirals assist vice admirals, who are one rank above an upper half rear admiral. When addressed verbally, officers of both the upper and lower ranks are addressed as rear admiral, although either LH or UH follows the officer’s title in written correspondence.
Coast Guard commissioned officers are paid based on a pay scale that runs from O-1 for the lowest-ranked individuals to O-10 for the rank of admiral. Officers of at least O-7 are considered “flag officers.” Less than 1 percent of career officers are promoted to flag rank, which in the Coast Guard comprise the upper and lower half rear admirals, the vice admirals and the admiral. Anyone eligible for the rank of rear admiral, UH or LH, must have at least two years in the service.
Lower half rear admirals must have served at least one year at that rank to be eligible for promotion to upper half rear admiral. The Coast Guard's promotion system is based on the strength of one’s service record, but it’s also vacancy-driven and for flag officers is a highly political process. Each year, promotion planners anticipate the need for officers in each grade based on quotas established by Congress. This selections board then recommends officers to the president, who will choose from this list whenever a vacancy occurs in the appropriate rank either due to promotion or retirement. The president makes this decision with input from the secretaries of the Navy and the Department of Defense and in consultation with the Coast Guard commandant. The Senate must then confirm the president’s pick.
Per the O-8 pay scale, upper half rear admirals with fewer than two years of service earn $8,453 per month, while those with 20 years invested earn $11,319 per month and those with more than 38 years in service are paid $12,185 per month. That compares with $10,236 per month for lower half rear admirals with 20 years in service and $10,493 for lower half rear admirals with 38 years under their belts.
A lower half rear admiral who has not been selected or nominated for promotion to the upper half rank must retire after five years or a total of 30 years of active service, whichever comes later. Meanwhile, an upper half rear admiral also must retire after five years after being promoted to that rank or a total of 35 years of active duty. However, the Navy secretary can waive each of those restrictions.
All naval flag officers are required to retire by age 62. This can be delayed until 64 if the secretary of defense grants an extension, and officers may even serve until the age of 66 at the president’s discretion.