Morale: Reconsidering Reducing Combat Pay


April 7, 2007: Although it made sense from a practical point-of-view, the U.S. Department of Defense noted the negative feedback and decided not to take away "imminent-danger" pay for the 1,700 U.S. troops currently stationed in Kosovo. American soldiers have been performing peacekeeping missions in the Balkans for over ten years now, and getting extra pay for being in a dangerous part of the world.

Before September 11, 2001, the most dangerous assignment for American troops was the Balkans. You knew it was dangerous, because the mass media said it was, and the army was giving you "danger pay" while you were there. Turned out that the place wasn't that dangerous. But none of the troops were complaining. There were very few combat injuries, and no combat deaths after over a decade of Balkans peacekeeping. Rather nice bases were built for the troops, and much attention was paid to base security. In addition to the hazardous duty pay, there were the tax breaks (you did not have to pay taxes on what you made in a combat zone.) OK, there was no booze, and not much opportunity to party with the locals, but life was good and the duty was tolerable.

After September 11, 2001, and the invasion of Iraq, the troops in Kosovo got razzed by their buddies going off to Iraq and Afghanistan. Collecting "imminent-danger" pay of $225 a month, when there was no combat, seemed too good to be true.

Last month, the Department of Defense announced plans to cut the combat pay for U.S. troops in the Balkans. However, Kosovo is just now becoming a more dangerous place. The local Albanians, the majority of the population, want Kosovo to be independent. Technically, Kosovo is still a province of Serbia, but under UN administration. The UN is leaning towards independence for Kosovo. Serbia says there will be violence if that happens. The Kosovo Albanians say there will be violence if it doesn't happen. Either way, U.S. troops, with or without extra pay, will be in the middle of it all. So the Department of Defense decided that cutting the half million dollars a month in benefits wasn't worth the bad publicity, especially if things got ugly later.

The Department of Defense has cut the imminent-danger pay for some troops in the Balkans, and elsewhere. About 300 military personnel serving in Angola, Georgia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia will lose the $225 a month, but in some of those nations they will receive $100-$150 increase in the form of hardship pay.


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