News Column

Pentagon Could Trim Combat Pay

July 11, 2013

Top defense officials will meet as early as Thursday to discuss trimming the list of countries where servicemembers' paychecks are pumped up by imminent danger pay.

The officials will weigh eliminating imminent danger pay in 18 countries and 5 waterways around the world that military officials believe may no longer be hazardous enough to warrant the extra pay. According to an Associated Press report, that could affect up to 56,000 troops who serve in, sail through or fly over designated danger zones, saving the department $120 million annually.

A defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter cautioned that no decision has been made to eliminate danger pay, which amounts to $7.50 a day, or a maximum of $225 a month, in designated countries.

It would be the second cost-cutting move related to danger pay in just over a year. Last February, the Defense Department began prorating danger pay by the day -- instead of paying the full monthly amount for even one day in a designated country -- to save up to $30 million annually.

Military officials have argued that if a location is safe enough for servicemembers to bring their families with them, such as Bahrain, the location does not merit extra danger pay, the Associated Press reported.

Troops receive imminent danger pay in nearly 50 nations, according to a list compiled by the Pentagon in 2011. In addition to war zones, the 2011 list included countries such as Cuba, Djibouti, Serbia, Turkey and Jordan, where the Navy's 5th Fleet is based.

Danger pay could be affected for some countries in the Middle East, but not anywhere U.S. troops are carrying out combat operations. But officials would not speculate on which countries are most likely to be removed from the list.

"The Department is currently in the process of reviewing Imminent Danger Pay for our servicemembers," a defense official said in an emailed statement. "However, it would be inappropriate at this time to discuss any possible changes before they are finalized."

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