Air Force ‘Flips,’ Says Special Ops, Recruiters, and Others Won’t Face Pay Cuts

pay cuts air force special ops

Air Force pararescuemen exit a C-130J on Aug. 18, 2022. Troops assigned to several special operations units and all Air Force combat controllers were on a list of 22 positions that were slated to lose monthly bonus pay until the service reversed course this week. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessi Roth.

US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessi Roth.

Hundreds of Air Force special ops troops, recruiters, cryptology specialists, and others with high-tempo jobs will not see pay cuts next month.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall announced at the annual Air & Space Forces Association’s conference this week that planned reductions to special duty assignment pay, or SDAP, would not go into effect in October. About 30,000 airmen, or slightly less than 10% of the active-duty force, receive SDAP pay each month, which can vary from $75 for junior troops to as high as $450 for senior leaders.

The pay goes to most troops in the service’s special ops jobs, as well as those in high-intensity jobs around national defense assets like nuclear weapons, cryptology, and airborne command posts. SDAP also goes to several public-facing jobs, like flight attendants and crew chiefs on VIP jets, contracting troops, those assigned to presidential details, and professional military education instructors.

pay cuts air force E-4

An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center aircraft takes off from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, July 10, 2019. The E-4B provides travel support for the secretary of defense to ensure command and control connectivity outside of the continental United States. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Skovo.

US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Skovo.

A shortfall in the 2023 budget had left the Air Force short of money to pay the full SDAP for the roughly 30,000 troops who receive it. The Air Force budget defines jobs eligible for SDAP as those “which are extremely difficult and/or duties which involve an unusual degree of responsibility in a military skill.”

Air Force officials had announced over the summer that several hundred troops across 11 career fields would lose half their special pay in October due to the budget shortfall, with the other half going away in 2024. The fields to be affected by the pay cuts were:

  • Cryptologic Language Analyst
  • Enlisted Professional Military Education Instructor
  • Defense Threat Reduction Agency
  • C-146 Flying Crew Chief
  • Defense Courier
  • Flight Attendant
  • National Airborne Ops Support
  • Airborne Mission Operator
  • Presidential Logistics Squadron
  • Radio Operator on the National Airborne Operating Center (a highly specialized plane that can serve as a central command post for all of the US military)
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonography

The Air Force, Kendall said, “will restore all the cuts to special duty assignment pay that were scheduled to take place on October 1.” Kendall did not say where the money would come from to cover the shortfall.

pay cuts combat control special ops

Combat control trainees from the 334th Training Squadron run back on shore after doing 100 jumping jacks in the Gulf of Mexico during a physical training session April 12, 2013, on Biloxi beach. US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue.

US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue.

Even among special ops troops, some who hold specific jobs and assignments were scheduled to see a cut in SDAP, including those who collected the monthly bonus because they were assigned to the 724th Special Tactics Group or Joint Special Operations Command. Among specific special warfare jobs, only one — combat control — was scheduled to see an SDAP drop, while similarly trained and deployed pararescuemen, tactical air control party (TACP), and special reconnaissance troops did not face a loss in pay.

  • Human Intelligence
  • Combat Controller
  • 724th Special Tactics Group
  • Joint Special Operations Command
  • Aircraft Battle Damage Repair/Expeditionary Depot Maintenance
  • White House Communications Agency
  • Parachuting Instructor
  • Cyber Warfare
  • Recruiter
  • Weapons Director
  • Army Support Weather Operator
  • White House Shelter Complex
  • Cyber Intelligence Analysis
  • Sensor Operator
  • 844th Communications Squadron, Executive Communications Flight
  • Command and Control (C2) Operations
  • Nuclear Aircraft Maintenance
  • Security Forces Nuclear Support
  • Contracting
  • Cyberspace Mission Force
  • Special Operations Surgical Team
  • Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System

Finally, the Air Force had planned to add several jobs to begin receiving SDAP that previously did not:

  • Electronic Security System Maintenance
  • Communications and Munitions Specialist in specific Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications squadrons
  • International Enlisted Engagements Manager
  • Space Force Senior Enlisted Leader
  • Radar Weather Systems
  • Casualty Cell
  • Fire Protection
  • 341st Training Squadron Military Working Dog Handler

Read Next: Activist Group Floods Veterans Crisis Line With Protest Calls

Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford will spend at least one more day in Virginia.
Ford’s technological glitches included propulsion problems, hinky elevators, and gremlins in the catapults.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now” is one of the most recognizable war movies ever made, yet few fans are familiar with the insane story behind its production.
Get a peek inside the Army’s competition in which the soft skills of interrogation and human intelligence collection meet the hard reality of field tactics.
An Army doctor and her wife, a Johns Hopkins doctor, colluded to try to give high-ranking US officials’ health information to Russia.
The Norwegian military recovered a US Air Force CV-22 Osprey, which had been stranded on a remote island nature reserve since early August, on Tuesday, Sept. 27, with a crane boat.
An Air Force sergeant will face a general court-martial to determine whether he orchestrated an “insider attack” on a US outpost in Syria in April that injured four service members.
Putin’s speech denied the battlefield reality in Ukraine and pushed conspiracy theories about a Western cabal conspired to “destroy” Russia.
Prosecutors failed to prove Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays torched the Bonhomme Richard in 2020.
Hurricane Ian brought torrential rains, high winds, and massive flooding.