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Mideast edition, Friday, September 21, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — Air Force leaders have backed off their plans to cut special duty assignment pay for thousands of airmen by $75 per month.

Officials had said “budget constraints” were forcing officials to review the special duty assignment pay program and reduce the allowance by one level for airmen working in 35 Air Force Specialty Codes.

But after working the budget numbers again, Air Force officials have figured out other ways to save the money, Capt. Thomas Wenz, an Air Force spokesman, said in an e-mail Wednesday.

As a result, all airmen eligible to receive SDAP will continue to receive it at the same rate after Oct. 1.

And the fiscal year 2007 rates will remain intact throughout 2008, according to Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Byrd, the Air Force’s manager of enlisted force management at the Pentagon.

SDAP is an extra payment that is offered to enlisted military members in the different services who perform duties designated as extremely difficult or requiring high levels of responsibility.

The Defense Department sets six different levels of monthly SDAP, which increase $75 increments from one level to the next. The maximum monthly payment is $450.

About 9,000 airmen currently receive the payments, one-third of whom were never in danger of losing money because their SDAP is mandated by the Defense Department, not the Air Force.

But other airmen in the program currently receiving between $150 and $450 per month would have dropped by one SDAP level, losing $75.

Airmen already receiving the lowest possible allotment, $75 a month, were not being considered for the cuts.

The Air Force’s 2008 budget to Congress earmarked $29.5 million for the SDAP program. The planned cuts would have saved the Air Force $7.4 million.

“However, after considering the impacts reductions might have on airmen, officials developed an alternative plan to avert any reductions,” Byrd said in his statement.

That plan includes “revised budget estimates and [personnel] reductions in the eligible population,” said Col. Ken Sersun, the Air Force’s deputy chief of the force management division at the Pentagon.

Together, the reductions “will allow us to absorb the cuts and preclude any financial losses to our airmen” in the form of lowering SDAP, Sersun said.

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