Military Personnel:

DOD Has Not Implemented the High Deployment Allowance That Could Compensate Servicemembers Deployed Frequently for Short Periods

GAO-04-805: Published: Jun 25, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2004.

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The fiscal year 2004 National Defense Authorization Act directed GAO to assess the special pays and allowances for servicemembers who are frequently deployed for less than 30 days, and to specifically review the family separation allowance. GAO's objectives were to assess (1) the rationale for the family separation allowance eligibility requirements, including the required duration of more than 30 consecutive days away from a member's duty station; (2) the extent to which DOD has identified short-term deployments as a family separation allowance issue; and (3) what special pays and allowances, in addition to basic military compensation, are available to compensate members deployed for less than 30 days.

In 1963, Congress established the family separation allowance to help offset the additional expenses that may be incurred by the dependents of servicemembers who are away from their permanent duty station for more than 30 consecutive days. Additional expenses may include the costs associated with home repairs, automobile maintenance, and childcare that could have been performed by the deployed servicemember. Over the years, the eligibility requirements for the family separation allowance have changed. Today, the family separation allowance is authorized for officers and enlisted in all pay grades at a flat rate. The rationale for establishing the 30-day threshold is unknown. DOD has not identified frequent short-term deployments as a family separation allowance issue. No proposals seeking modifications to the family separation allowance because of frequent short-term deployments have been provided to DOD for consideration as part of DOD's Unified Legislation and Budgeting process, which reviews personnel pay proposals. Further, DOD officials were not aware of any specific concerns that have been raised by frequently deployed servicemembers about their eligibility to receive the family separation allowance. Based on group discussions with Air Force strategic airlift aircrews, who were identified as examples of those most likely to be experiencing short-term deployments, we did not identify any specific concerns regarding the lack of family separation allowance compensation associated with short-term deployments. Rather, many aircrew members indicated the high pace of operations and associated unpredictability of their schedules was a greater concern due to the negative impact on their quality of life. In addition to basic military compensation, DOD has several special pays and allowances to further compensate servicemembers deployed for short periods. Servicemembers who are deployed for less than 30 days may be eligible to receive regular per diem. The per diem amount varies depending upon location. For example, these rates range from $86 to $284 per day within the United States and from $20 to $533 per day when outside the United States. However, DOD has not implemented the high deployment allowance designed, in part, to compensate those frequently deployed for shorter periods. Congress supported DOD's legislative proposal to authorize a monthly high deployment allowance. This allowance permits the services to compensate members for lengthy as well as frequent shorter deployments. The most recent amendment to this provision provides DOD with the authority to adjust a cumulative day threshold to help compensate servicemembers experiencing frequent short deployments. DOD has flexibility to exclude all occupations except those that it wishes to target for additional pay. However, DOD has not established criteria to implement this allowance, nor has DOD set a timetable for establishing such criteria.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in concert with the Service Secretaries and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to set a timetable for establishing criteria to implement the high deployment allowance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has not established a timetable to establish criteria to implement the high deployment allowance. In fact, DOD has indicated that it does not intend to implement the high deployment allowance authority, which the department views as a "peacetime" authority. Rather, DOD and the Services report that they have worked in unison over the past two years to develop a deployment tempo pay program utilizing hardship duty pay (HDP). According to USD(P&R), modifications to HDP to address high deployments were partially achieved by the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which increased the maximum monthly amount payable in HDP from $750 to $1,500. DOD reports that it currently has a legislative proposal under review by the Senate and House Armed Service Committee staffs that would provide greater flexibility in the management of servicemember deployment, redefines deployment, and authorizes the Secretary of the Military Department to develop deployment tempo pay tables consistent with Service deployment patterns. DOD expects that this proposal will be part of the FY2009 NDAA.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in concert with the Service Secretaries and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to define, as part of the criteria, what constitutes frequent short-term deployments within the context of the cumulative day requirement as stated in the high deployment allowance legislation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD has indicated that they do not intend to implement the high deployment allowance authority and will seek its elimination. Currently, implementation of the high deployment allowance remains suspended under a 2001 National Security Waiver. According to USD(P&R), the Department's goal is to replace the high deployment allowance authority in section 436, title 37 with a more flexible high deployment compensation mechanism. In line with that goal, DOD and services have developed a deployment tempo pay program that utilizes the hardship duty pay (HDP) program contained in section 305, title 37. According to USD(P&R), the goal of improving hardship duty pay was partially achieved by the FY2008 NDAA which doubled the maximum monthly amount payable in HDP from $750 to $1500. At this time, OSD(P&R) reports that a legislative proposal which is under review by the House and Senate Armed Services committees would redefine deployment and authorize the Secretary of each Military Department to develop tempo pay tables consistent with their deployment patterns and "ethos."

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness), in concert with the Service Secretaries and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to determine, as part of the criteria, eligibility requirements targeting the high deployment allowance to selected occupational specialties.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DoD, in effect, dismissed the portion of the recommendation that addressed the targeting of special pay or allowance to selected occupational specialities. It stated that regardless of the occupation in which a member serves, serving in a personal tempo situation beyond the established norm results in an arduousness for the member that the Department believes should be financially recognized.

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