Business managers at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, say they were ordered this week to cut the hours of Nonappropriated Fund employees so the Air Force could avoid paying them post allowance. But the Air Force commander who oversees the NAF employees believes his message to find efficient ways to accomplish the mission might have been misinterpreted.

On March 21, NAF employers were told to start paying post allowance — which is meant to offset the high cost of living in some overseas areas — to all qualifying full-time employees. For at least the past 13 years, the Air Force and others had avoided paying the allowance in violation of Defense Department regulation.

Three NAF business managers under the base’s 52nd Services Squadron on Tuesday told Stars and Stripes that they’d been ordered to cut employee hours from 40 per week to between 32 to 35 hours. That order, which the managers said was disseminated to them through their flight chiefs, came just three days after a review of employee hours concluded an additional 80 employees would get post allowance.

The DOD ruling is expected to cost U.S. Air Forces Europe millions annually. At current rates, the lowest-paid employees eligible for post allowance would get more than $6,000 a year. Higher-paid employees with families could make $15,000 a year or more a year.

Despite that, Michael C. Wyatt, commander of 52nd Services Squadron, said Tuesday that he never gave the order to cut back employees’ hours.

"I think that there’s been a misinterpretation," Wyatt said.

To cut back the hours of every person who has been entitled to post allowance "would be wrong, and I would not do that," he said.

But he said he did direct managers to find efficient ways to accomplish the mission, a point he reiterated in an e-mail sent to employees Wednesday.

"I have not directed full-time employees to work less hours to avoid paying post allowance," read the e-mail, which was forwarded to Stars and Stripes by one of the business managers. The manager requested her name be withheld to avoid problems at work.

Wyatt also said personnel expenses will go up substantially because of post allowance, and in the future, "you know, we might adjust hours."

He and his unit are "doing the right thing," he said by making sure those eligible get post allowance. "But if expenses exceed income, then at that point you have to adjust accordingly."

Wyatt’s e-mail to 52nd personnel said that all eligible employees would get post allowance, that he intends to follow Air Force guidance, and that, "No jobs have been lost due to payment of Post Allowance."

The "Air Force has not authorized cutting back hours for the employees who are currently eligible to receive Post Allowance," according to an e-mail from the Secretary of the Air Force’s Public Affairs Office.

Asked whether the service would be able to make the required post allowance payments, the office responded, "We are in the beginning phase of post allowance payment, which began 20 April with the first pay out date of 9 May 08. As the fiscal year progresses, we will monitor the bases’ ability to fund the required payments."

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