Department of the Air Force officials have revealed which jobs are no longer eligible for a bonus meant to incentivize airmen to take on the most difficult roles in the service, after Military.com reported on the service's lack of transparency in not releasing the information to the public.
Last week, Military.com reported that the Air Force had repeatedly declined to list which jobs would no longer qualify for Special Duty Assignment Pay. The only way to view the revised list of jobs that qualify was to have a login for the Air Force's myForce Support Squadron, or myFSS, a web portal accessible only to service members -- meaning it was hidden from spouses, the media and government watchdogs.
On Tuesday, four days after Military.com's article, the Air Force revealed which jobs no longer qualify for Special Duty Assignment Pay.
Last month, the Department of the Air Force announced that a newly formed board reviewed the special pay program and reduced the number of jobs that qualify for the bonus from 103 to 70 for fiscal year 2024.
Of the 70 jobs that were approved to receive Special Duty Assignment Pay, "four were initial requests that were certified for the first time, 48 were recertified at their current rate, 11 increased rate and seven decreased rate to maintain parity with specialties of similar duties, responsibilities and training,” according to the Air Force.
The bonus, which can range from $75 to $450 a month, is meant for those "who serve in duties which are extremely difficult," according to Air Force budget documents. Many service members choose to take on those jobs because of that extra money while formulating family budgets around the higher pay.
Here are the jobs that no longer qualify for Special Duty Assignment Pay:
- 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
- Remotely Piloted Aircraft (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 Engineers and Loadmasters
- Airborne Mission Systems Specialist -- Host Nation Riders
- 55th Operations Group Management Operator
- 336th Training Squadron & 98th DRA Aircrew Flight Equipment
- Diagnostic Med Sonographer
- Honor Guard
- Air National Guard RPA Cyber Ops
- Radar, Airfield & Weather Systems
- Casualty Cell (next-of-kin notification)
- Military Working Dog Handlers
A June 23 press release from the Department of the Air Force said the board "focused on identifying personnel in extremely demanding positions with unusually challenging responsibilities based on a defendable scoring methodology, and decisions were made agnostic of budgetary funding."
Those serving in a field that will be removed from the bonus list won't lose all the pay at once; they will still receive Special Duty Assignment Pay at "a rate of one-half their original SDAP through Sept. 30, 2024," according to the release.
Jobs that will see a reduction in Special Duty Assignment Pay include:
- Military Human Intelligence
- 724th Special Tactics Group Operations, Support
- Subsurface Analyst
- Parachuting Instructor
- 33rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron, Operating Location Alpha
- Mission Field Chef
- Special Ops Surgical Team
Jobs where the Special Duty Assignment Pay is being reduced will be "given 90 days before the reduced rate will become effective," the release added.
Some career fields that were previously ineligible for Special Duty Assignment Pay now qualify. They include:
- Material Management
- Bomber Airborne Maintenance Support
- United States Air Force Academy Enlisted Faculty Instructor
- Special Missions Support
Career fields that will see an increase in Special Duty Assignment Pay include:
- Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) Specialists
- Cyber Warfare Ops
- Flying Crew Chiefs
- Special Reconnaissance
- Air Force Office of Special Investigations
- First Sergeant
- Command Chief Master Sergeant
- 844th Communications Squadron
- Independent Duty Medical Technician
- Respiratory Care
- Fire Protection
Those in jobs receiving an increase in Special Duty Assignment Pay will see it in place starting Oct. 1.
The Department of the Air Force's choice not to, at first, publicly disclose what jobs were being cut from Special Duty Assignment Pay concerned government watchdogs like Jason Paladino, a researcher at the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.
"The Air Force public affairs office is once again showing a reflexive secrecy, withholding unclassified information from the public without justification," Paladino said. "U.S. taxpayers have a right to know how much they are paying members of the military."
On Monday, the Air Force announced that it could potentially run out of money in its personnel budget and began pausing some duty assignments and reenlistment and retention bonuses, as well as extending some deployments to address the shortfall.
The Air Force detailed a $92.2 million ask for Special Duty Assignment Pay in the fiscal 2024 budget documents which were released this year. The budget from the year prior asked for an estimated $96.2 million for the financial incentive, about $4 million more.
The Air Force said the bonus would be for an estimated 33,500 airmen last year. For the fiscal year 2024 ask, it would be for around 29,800 airmen, according to the service's documents, or about 3,700 fewer people.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.