Air Force Cuts Bonuses for Thousands
Update: 7/24/2023: Emergency funding has led the Air Force to resume PCS moves for many after pausing them, and the budget cuts that resulted in the end of special duty pay for selected career fields may no longer be an issue for many.
The Air Force announced it received emergency funding for critical programs and that the PCS pause and bonus elimination efforts would be curtailed.
Budget woes are responsible for an Air Force-wide pause on bonuses, some PCS moves, and even incentive pay for pilots and related career fields. Air Force Times reports that the resumption of PCS moves in particular affects a large number of troops. But not all.
“Airmen stationed overseas who were scheduled to return stateside between October and December still have to stay put until March 2024 at the latest. People can petition their wing commanders and the Air Force Personnel Center to make an exception.” Air Force officials promise to follow up with those who have had PCS moves delayed or suspended over budget issues.
Military Times reported on the subject noting, “supplemental funding was delayed by a fight between Colorado and Alabama’s congressional delegations over the future home of U.S. Space Command, a decision controlled by the Air Force.”
In the end, it took Congress approving emergency funding for the Air Force to ward off budget cuts.
Budget Trouble, Bonus Cuts
Economically speaking, things are tough all over. And that includes the Department of Defense. The United States Air Force and Space Force have implemented cost-cutting measures saving the DoD approximately $4 million a year in the case of the Air Force’s cuts.
Unfortunately, those cuts come right out of the pockets of some $3,700 airmen in more than 30 career fields formerly eligible for bonus pay. Some wonder whether the Air Force is more interested in hardware than personnel; a single F-16 costs between $16 million and $80 million, according to ExecutiveFlyers.com.
That said, it should be pointed out that DoD funding for hardware is in a different category than the funding for personnel. The $4 million in savings on the personnel side doesn’t necessarily translate into more money for hardware.
Who Feels the Pinch of These Budget Cuts
These cost-saving measures were aimed at an Air Force and Space Force bonus type known as special duty assignment pay or SDAP.
In the past, that bonus was offered to those working in over 100 Air Force and Space Force specialties such as Cryptologic Language Analyst, Electronic Security Systems, and Aircraft Battle Damage Repair. These bonuses are still being paid, but more selectively and to around 70 career fields as opposed to over 100 under the program, pre-budget cuts.
Space Force had its own version of the review process evaluating such bonus pay changes, addressing the bonus issue as part of its very first “service-specific Special Duty Assignment Pay board using a new board process to ensure appropriate distribution based off the SDAP definition,” according to a Space Force press release.
These cuts are being phased in; those who formerly qualified for the bonus will receive a half-pay version for a limited time before the pay is phased out completely for those in more than 30 Air Force specialties.
Which Air Force Jobs Will Feel the Bonus Cuts?
The following Air Force career fields will no longer qualify for special assignment duty pay, according to AirAndSpaceForces.com:
- President’s Emergency Ops Center
- Cryptologic Language Analyst
- Electronic Security Systems
- Aircraft Battle Damage Repair Exp Depot Mx
- Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)
- 361st Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group (ISRG)
- Defense Couriers
- 31 Communication Squadron and 39 Communication Squadron NC3
- Army Support Weather Ops
- Flight Attendants
- 52nd Munitions Maintenance Group NC3
- Airborne Mission System Operators
- Flight Engineers
- Sensor Operators
- Special Mission Aviators
- RPA Cyber Technicians
- International Enlisted Engagements Managers
- RPA Ops – Weather Support
- Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System
- Super High-Frequency Operators
- Advanced Intelligence Instructors
- Ski Mission – Flight Eng and Loadmasters
- Airborne MSS – Host Nation Riders
- 55th Operations Group Management Operator
- 336 Training Squadron & 98th DRA Aircrew Flight Equipment
- Diagnostic Med Sonogram
- Honor Guard
- ANG RPA Cyber Ops
- Radar, Airfield, & Weather Systems
- Casualty Cell
- Military Working Dog Handlers
More Budget Cut Issues
These bonuses aren’t the only ways the Air Force is trying to deal with its funding problems. It has paused PCS moves for some, canceled “selective reenlistment bonuses” for critically staffed jobs, and aviation bonuses for pilots, combat systems officers, and air battle managers have also been “paused for restructuring.”
About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.