National News

July 10, 2013

AP NewsBreak: Pentagon eyes cuts in danger pay

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is eyeing plans to eliminate danger pay for service members in as many as 18 countries and five waterways around the world, saving about $120 million each year while taking a bite out of troops’ salaries, The Associated Press has learned.

Senior defense and military leaders are expected to meet later this week to review the matter and are poised to approve a new plan. Pentagon press secretary George Little declined to discuss details but said no final decisions have been made.

Senior military leaders came up with the proposed list of locations in their regions that no longer were perilous enough to warrant danger pay, including several countries in the heart of the tumultuous Middle East, such as Jordan, where hundreds of troops have recently deployed because of the bloody Syrian civil war on its border.

Defense officials said the proposal would strip the stipend — which can be up to $225 per month — from as many as 56,000 service members, including thousands stationed in Kuwait, which was a key hub during the Iraq war. It also would affect thousands of sailors who routinely travel through the Persian Gulf region on ships or airmen who fly over the Gulf.

The $225 monthly cut in pay would come regardless of the service member’s base salary, which can range from a low of roughly $18,000 a year for a brand new recruit to a high of nearly $235,000 a year for a four-star general with more than 40 years in the military. Troops also can receive a variety of other allowances for housing, clothing or job specialties.

Defense officials described the proposal on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Under the plans being discussed, troops would still receive the extra money if they serve in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The U.S. does not have any military members now serving in Iran.

Some of the countries that could likely be dropped from the list include Bahrain, where the Navy’s 5th Fleet is located; Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Haiti and several former Soviet republics.

Officials have argued that if service members are allowed to bring their families with them for assignments in places like Bahrain, then it is difficult to argue that they should receive danger pay.

The list has routinely evolved over many years, with countries added as they became more dangerous hotspots. And military leaders do periodic reviews of the list.

While the changes are based solely on the security review, the cuts also come as the Pentagon is under growing pressure to slash its budget, and as more than 650,000 civilians began taking the first of their 11 required days off without pay through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier this week that the fiscal pressures and congressional gridlock have led to far more abrupt and steeper cuts than expected. He noted that if Congress does not find a way to avoid the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, the department will have to find $52 billion in additional savings next year.

So far, the danger pay decision does not affect the tax-free status of service members’ pay when serving in those countries or on ships in the Gulf region.

Under existing Defense Department rules, military troops serving in as many as two dozen different nations as well as the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden have been able to receive the imminent danger pay. Until early 2012, they received the full monthly amount — $225 at the time — for any complete or partial month they served in any of the qualifying areas.

Beginning Feb. 1, 2012, troops received pro-rated payments of $7.50 for each day they were on official duty in one of the areas.

The total cost has been about $500 million per year.

Officials also said the proposed changes do not affect hostile fire pay.  Service members who are exposed to a hostile fire or hostile mine explosion event are eligible to receive a full monthly payment of $225. But they can’t receive both danger pay and hostile fire pay for the same month.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

    April 20, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout in east

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates

    The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adolescence. They lived just a few minutes away from one another in the West Bank. And both were accused of throwing stones at vehicles, one day after the other.

    April 20, 2014

  • Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

    April 20, 2014

  • Fracking foes cringe as unions back drilling boom

    After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they’re now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom.

    April 20, 2014

  • In Colorado, a pot holiday tries to go mainstream

    Once the province of activists and stoners, the traditional pot holiday of April 20 has gone mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 20, 2014

  • ‘Capt. America’ tops box office for third week

    Captain America continues to vanquish box office foes, triumphing in ticket sales for the third consecutive week and dominating over megastar Johnny Depp’s new movie.

    April 20, 2014

  • Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has spent a record 14 years in office vanquishing nearly all who dared confront him: political rivals, moms against mandatory vaccines for sixth graders, a coyote in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    April 20, 2014

  • NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 19, 2014

  • Documents detail another delayed GM recall

    Government documents show that General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and warranty repair claims.

    April 19, 2014