Air Force to possibly cut bonus pay for toughest jobs in 2024
April 10, 2023

Budget request includes demand of $92.2 million for Special Duty Assignment Pay

The U.S. Air Force may cut bonus pay for airmen working in challenging jobs if Congress approves its 2024 budget request as is. The budget request includes a demand of $92.2 million for Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP), a monthly incentive provided to enlisted airmen for performing difficult jobs that involve a high degree of military expertise.

SDAP is granted to some of the most rigorous positions in the Air Force, such as Basic Military Training instructors, recruiters, combat controllers, and Pararescue (PJ) rescue operators, according to budget records.

In the previous year, the Air Force sought $96.2 million for SDAP, and the current budget request will cater to approximately 29,800 airmen, whereas the previous year’s estimate was 33,500 airmen. Airmen often depend on SDAP bonuses, which can range from $75 to $450 per month, to plan their budget and determine additional responsibilities.

The Air Force conducts SDAP assessments and mandates periodic justifications for these responsibilities, leading to necessary changes. The budget documents indicate that the specific job codes that qualify for the bonus and the total budget for SDAP may change either before or after approval during the fiscal year 2024.

The Air Force encountered a comparable predicament when it confronted a deficit of $3 million in its SDAP scheme for the fiscal year 2023. During the Air & Space Forces Association’s yearly conference in September, Secretary Frank Kendall declared that he would overturn it.

He stated that the Air Force’s airmen and guards in essential fields were under exceptional financial stress caused by the past few months of inflation, and the process to adopt special duty compensation was not synchronized with the swift changes caused by COVID-19 and the invasion of Ukraine.

The Air Force Department had asked for $90.2 million for fiscal 2023, but the amount was raised to $96.2 million after Secretary Kendall’s speech. Additionally, they requested an extra $11 million to increase SDAP to over $100 million for 2023, which hasn’t been authorized yet.

The proposed Air Force budget for the fiscal year 2024 may result in a reduction of bonus pay for airmen in demanding positions. However, this budget is not yet conclusive, and the Air Force may ask for more funds during the fiscal year to strengthen the SDAP. Moreover, members of Congress can modify Air Force spending.

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