In a move that will cut the take-home pay of thousands of Airmen, the Air Force is reducing the number of Airmen who qualify for special duty assignment pay beginning in October.
Officials planned similar cuts a year ago, only to reverse course before the changes went into effect. Exactly who will or won’t be eligible has been withheld from public view. The Air Force offered no justification for withholding the actual list, which it has released in the past. The other military services also routinely publish details of who qualifies for the special pay, which is worth from $75 to $450 per month.
What is clear is that after a board review last month, the Air Force cut from 103 to 70 job specialties the number of fields that will merit special pay beginning in fiscal 2024, which starts Oct. 1. Four new specialties will qualify. The full list is available on myFSS, accessible to anyone on Active duty, but hidden from spouses, the public, and Congress, among others.
Airmen whose assignments no longer qualify will be paid half the current rate through fiscal 2024, as an interim step to ease the pain of the cut.
Rates for seven specialties will decline; in those cases, the cuts will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025, however, allowing a grace period of 90 days to ease Airmen into the change.
According to Air Force budget documents, the 3,708 Airmen who will no longer receive SDAP will suffer a net lost of $4.04 million, or about $90 per month on average. Most will actually lose $75 or $150 per month.
Last year, when the Air Force also planned SDAP cuts, the reductions would have been less far reaching, with 489 Airmen losing a total of $1.5 million, or an average of $255 per month. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall cancelled that plan amid an outcry over paycuts at a time of high inflation.
According to the Air Force release, the board reviewing requests for SDAP this year were unaware of the budgeted funds for the program until after each request was considered.
The Space Force hosted its own SDAP board for the first time for fields that had moved into its jurisdiction. That board approved 14 job specialties, while cutting three, adding two, and “rolling” one into an existing approval. Space Force budget documents indicate funding and the number of Guardians included in the program is expected to stay flat in 2024. The Space Force followed the Air Force’s lead and withheld the list from public release, linking from a public press release to a private webpage. Department of the Air Force public affairs officials were unable to offer an explanation for withholding the details.