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Confusion reigns over troops' danger pay in shutdown

Oct. 1, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  

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Despite gates and posted signs, visitors toured the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (Mike Morones / Staff)

Will troops in Afghanistan receive imminent danger pay during the government shutdown?

That’s a question being debated internally Tuesday by top officials at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill — just one example of the genuine confusion created by the political impasse in Washington.

Late Monday night, lawmakers passed and President Obama signed into law a bill to ensure that active-duty troops get paychecks, including at least basic pay and housing allowance, on Oct. 15 regardless of whether the government shutdown continues for weeks.

Yet on Tuesday morning, the Navy Personnel Command published a memo that said incentive pays, including imminent danger and hazardous duty pay, will not be paid during the government shutdown and that troops will receive retroactive payments after the government resumes routine operations.

On Tuesday afternoon, the House Armed Services Committee contacted the Pentagon and said that was not their interpretation of the law enacted late Monday night. A committee staffer suggested that the law does, in fact, permit troops to receive those incentive pays, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

Later Tuesday afternoon, the Navy sent out a revised memo saying “payment of all military pay and allowances is authorized — provided funds are available from the Treasury.”

For the roughly 54,000 troops currently deployed to Afghanistan, danger pay provides an additional $7.50 a day, or a maximum of $225 a month. Troops in other designated countries or waterways also are eligible for the incentive pay.

A spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, said the Pentagon has not made a final determination about whether troops will receive danger pay and similar incentive pays.

The question will likely be resolved before Oct. 15 military paychecks are processed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Services.

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