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About two months ago, nearly five dozen Air Force nonappropriated fund employees in Europe started getting post allowance, a cost-of-living allowance paid to qualifying Americans to offset high overseas costs. About a month later, a policy change brought post allowance eligibility to about 400 more.

Nearly all were elated. The extra money was supposed to be a good thing, and for many it has been. But many employees are now scared for their jobs, wondering if getting the allowance has been worth it.

"Yes, I am one of the fortunate ones who now qualifies for post allowance," Andrea Minu, a nonappropriated fund employee at Aviano Air Base, Italy, wrote in an e-mail. "But I now wonder how fortunate I am."

She’s worried the Air Force will carry out so-called "business-based actions" to eliminate positions filled by personnel who qualify for the allowance or to convert those positions from regular to flex — a move that would strip employees of not just post allowance, but also of benefits such as medical and dental insurance they’ve long been eligible for.

"I honestly fear that I will soon be out of a job," she wrote.

Two employees at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany who recently started getting post allowance have already received business-based actions that converted their jobs from regular to flex and cut their pay and benefits.

USAFE officials have not answered a June 17 query from Stars and Stripes about the possibility of similar actions at other European bases, saying all issues surrounding post allowance are being coordinated at the Department of Defense.

While two jobs were reclassified — a shift that lead to a loss of post allowance — "We have not cut the hours of any employee to prevent them from getting post allowance," Senior Master Sgt. Cheryl L. Toner, a 52nd Fighter Wing spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail response.

"We have been facing funding challenges for quite some time in many of our NAF activities and restructuring has been under consideration before the post allowance announcement was made,"

Employees are nevertheless on edge.

At Spangdahlem, workers say the arrival of post allowance has sparked widespread resentment and distrust among employees of the 52nd Services Squadron, which runs the base’s club, bowling alley, slot machines, inn and other businesses. Employees say their daily activities have been scrutinized for weeks as part of widespread time studies, the aim of which, many believe, is to help plan future employee cuts.

USAFE did not respond by deadline to a question about the time studies.

"What they have done to this base, they have created World War III throughout 52nd Services with the different activities," said one employee who asked that her name not be used because she feared getting in trouble at work. Because there’s so much scrutiny of costs, employees are scared for their jobs and "they are blaming each other and pointing their fingers at each other for things that used to work fine," she said.

"I’ve never seen the atmosphere like it is right now. I mean just the distrust … the morale of the employees, it’s just like this dark cloud is hanging over Spangdahlem," said one longtime employee, who also asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisal. "I definitely attribute it to the post allowance issue."


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