Ronald Preston heard the news in an e-mail from a boss at lunchtime Friday.

It was a surprise like no other.

After nearly 13 years working as a full-time nonappropriated fund employee at Japan’s Yokosuka Naval Base, Preston, like many other NAF “local hires” living overseas, will soon receive post allowance.

“Everybody here is real ecstatic about it,” Preston said. “I never thought we’d see it.”

Preston, 64, is one of eight NAF full-time local hires at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation warehouse, he said.

He’s unsure how much his supplement will be. But he was told the allowance would start showing up in his April 25 paycheck.

Across the Pacific region, it’s still unclear how many employees will be affected.

Also unclear is whether the additional allowance will force MWR organizations and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to raise prices or cut staff.

Air Force and Navy officials in Japan on Friday would not answer questions about NAF post allowance, referring all queries to the Office of Secretary of Defense.

Of the Defense Department’s six major NAF employers, only the Army paid the allowance to Americans it hired overseas for full-time NAF positions. AAFES is the Defense Department’s largest NAF employer.

After acknowledging earlier this month it only recently discovered the discrepancy in post allowance polices, the department promised a thorough review that officials expected to last several months.

Officials moved swiftly. On March 21, Michael Dominguez, the principal deputy secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, directed nonappropriated fund employers to pay post allowance to all eligible employees not currently receiving it.

The inconsistencies in post allowance payments prompted several e-mails to Stars and Stripes from local hires in the Pacific.

Said one worker from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, who asked to remain anonymous: “I and so many others pay for ALL of our living arrangements on our own with no help but our base pay.”

More questions need answering. On the back pay issue, employees will be able to make claims going as far back as Dec. 1, 2001, according to Lt. Col. Les’ Melnyk, a Defense Department spokesman. But who qualifies remains to be worked out.

Melnyk didn’t indicate why that date was chosen. A regulation that went into effect in 1995 said “all eligible U.S. citizens receive post allowance unless they are part-time, intermittent, or U.S. family member summer/winter hire employees,” according to Melnyk.

Preston said he’d be happy with partial back pay, but he can’t help but wonder “how they could suppress that for 12 years when it was a DOD regulation. That’s a question that people are still asking.”

He also is curious about where the money’s going to come from.

“If it comes out of MWR coffers will it increase MWR prices?” he said. “It’s got to be an accounting and personnel nightmare.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Matt Millham contributed to this story.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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