The Defense Department has yet to make a decision on whether the stopgap measure passed by Congress on military pay during the government shutdown will allow troops in Afghanistan to keep receiving the extra $7.50 a day they rate for hazardous duty, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
Defense Department lawyers were still reviewing the language in the last-minute law that keeps paychecks flowing to the uniformed military during the federal government shutdown to determine whether combat pay was permitted.
A decision was expected next week, if the shutdown impasse is not resolved by then, said Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman.
On Monday evening, just before the midnight shutdown, the House and Senate passed and Obama signed into law a bill to maintain basic pay and housing allowances for the military.
The move avoided the embarassment for lawmakers of having a shutdown that would "require our troops to go into combat while receiving only an IOU," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
However, the Navy Personnel Command put out a memo saying that various incentive pays, including imminent danger and hazardous duty pay, would not be paid during the shutdown. Instead, troops would receive retroactive payments once the government resumed operations.
The Navy memo brought a quick reply from the House Armed Services Committee, insisting that the language of the bill allowed for hadardous duty pay.
The Navy then put out another memo stating that "payment of all military pay and allowances is authorized -- provided funds are available from the Treasury." The DoD lawyers considering the matter were said to be trying to determine what funds Treasury might have to cover the pro-rated combat pay of $7.50 a day up to a total of $225 a month.
Cutting off or delaying "danger pay" would short circuit a tradition going back to World War II of paying extra to troops in harm's way. In World War II, the infantry rated an extra $10 a month in what was called "Badge Pay."
In Korea, "Combat Pay" of $45 a month was authorized for troops deployed to the peninsula. Combat Pay expired with the Korean armistice of 1953 but resurfaced in 1963 as "Hostile Fire Pay" of $55 a month for Vietnam.