Strengthening dollar knocks troops’ COLA
September 16, 2008
Cost-of-living allowances given to U.S. troops in every European country except Portugal will drop Tuesday, forced down for the second time this month by the growing strength of the U.S. dollar.
For midranking troops, the cut translates to about $50 a month.
Post allowances given to civilians in Belgium and the United Kingdom also fell Sunday because of increasingly favorable exchange rates between the greenback and major European currencies.
The cuts to both allowances come two weeks after taking a significant hit on the dollar’s strength, and two weeks before an already announced cut to troops’ cost-of-living allowances — caused by a drop in Americans’ average spendable income — kicks in.
When added to the month’s earlier COLA cuts, midranking enlisted troops can expect anywhere from about $180 to $220 less this month than last, depending on rank, family size, location and other factors, according to Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee data.
Portugal was able to buck the trend. New price data collected there by the State Department indicated goods and services in the country have grown more expensive. Similar price data pushed COLA there higher in March.
Troop COLA in Portugal is still relatively low, however, and the dollar’s gains against the euro weren’t enough to trip a COLA change.
That means troops there will have at least another two weeks to take advantage of the stronger dollar.
On average, the cost of withdrawing 100 euros from an on-base ATM was about $156 during the first half of August, but dropped to about $146 on average in the first half of September, according to military bank data.
Cost-of-living allowances, which are designed to give overseas personnel the same purchasing power as their stateside counterparts, can change as often as every two weeks because of exchange rates.