Air Force Pay Cuts Looming Next Month for Airmen in the Service's Toughest Jobs

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U.S. Air Force pararescueman exits the back of a C-130J Super Hercules.
A U.S. Air Force pararescueman exits the back of a C-130J Super Hercules for a search and rescue scenario during Exercise Pacific Angel at Kuantan Air Base, Malaysia, Aug. 18, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessi Roth)

Enlisted airmen who work in some of the Air Force's most difficult jobs will receive from $900 to $5,400 less annually beginning next month as the service faces financial challenges that affect the ranks.

Hundreds of service members will see cuts to their Special Duty Assignment Pay, known as SDAP, in fiscal 2023 -- which starts Oct. 1. Those monthly payments, ranging from $75 to $450, were an extra incentive "to compensate enlisted service members who serve in duties which are extremely difficult," according to budget documents.

"The Air Force saw an overall reduction of over $3 million to the FY23 SDAP budget based on fiscal constraints," service spokeswoman Laurel Falls told Military.com. "Due to the reduced funding levels, SDAP rates for 44 functional communities saw reductions."

UpdateAir Force Pay Cuts Canceled

In the fiscal 2023 budget, the Air Force is asking the federal government for 30,845 airmen to receive the more than $90.2 million worth of Special Duty Assignment Pay.

It's a lower figure than the last two years, being cut by $1.5 million and around 500 airmen, according to budget documents.

For 2022, the Air Force asked for 31,334 airmen to receive $91.7 million; in 2021, the service asked for 30,967 airmen to receive $90.8 million in Special Duty Assignment Pay.

The Air Force is facing a $3 million shortfall to the Special Duty Assignment Budget for 2023, according to the service. Air Force Headquarters held a meeting this past November to address the problem prior to crafting the 2023 budget, Falls told Military.com.

To avoid the cuts, lawmakers would have to reinstate the Special Duty Assignment Pay difference in the 2023 budget proposal before it's approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden. The military's annual budget could be finalized later this year.

Dozens of Air Force career fields will be affected by the cut to Special Assignment Duty Pay. One of those is recruiters.

Air Force Recruiting Service recruiters are set to lose their $75 in special duty pay each month for fiscal 2023, which would add up to nearly $900 a year in lost wages.

Losing the pay could be a blow to recruiters' morale as they face difficult challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic inflation and a shifting workforce. Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, the head of the Air Force Recruiting Service, promised recruiters he would push for the extra pay to be reinstated in the next fiscal year.

The general "recognizes the unique challenges Air Force recruiters and their families experience and he is working to have the monthly $75 payment restored in the future," spokesman Randy Martin told Military.com

Here's a list of all the Air Force's special duty pay that would be reduced in fiscal 2023, according to budget documents:

  • Recruiters
  • Basic Military Training instructors
  • Human Intelligence debriefers
  • Combat Controllers
  • Pararescue operators
  • Command chief master sergeants
  • First sergeants
  • Defense Attaché Office (DAO) liaisons
  • Nuclear Enterprise airmen
  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) agents
  • Air Traffic Control (ATC) supervisors
  • Postal and National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC) enablers
  • Tactical Air Command and Control Party (TACP) operators
  • Enlisted pilots and weapons directors
  • Parachute instructors and those with test parachute program
  • Flight attendants
  • Mission system specialists
  • Load masters
  • USAF Honor Guards
  • Special Reconnaissance operators
  • Phoenix Raven Security Forces defenders
  • Forward Area Refueling Point enablers
  • Flying crew chiefs
  • Defense couriers
  • Airmen who support various commands
  • Enlisted airmen who work with special government agencies
  • Public affairs airmen assigned to recruiting squadrons
  • Air transportation airmen
  • Airmen assigned to special classified Air Force projects.

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

Related: Air Force Recruiters Receive Pay Cut as Service Scrambles to Meet End of Year Goals

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