New allowance aims to ease hardships sailors, Marines endure on long deployments
Sailors and Marines on lengthy deployments began accruing a new allowance on Wednesday aimed at making long tours at sea more tolerable.
Known as Hardship Duty Pay-Tempo, the allowance applies to all active-duty and reserve troops on operational deployments of more than 220 days. It is prorated at $16.50 for every day over the threshold, with a cap of $495 a month. Authorized by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus this summer for a span of two years, the incentive officially went into effect Wednesday.
It may be months before the money hits troops’ accounts, however. The military pay system must first be updated, according to a Navy news release, a process scheduled to be completed by year’s end.
The change affects ships currently on deployment, including the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, whose deployment in February was recently extended, and the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, which departed Virginia in February for a nine-month tour. The allowance does not affect deployments that ended before Wednesday, the release said.
The benefit is the latest announced by a Navy concerned about the impact of more frequent and lengthier deployments on its force. Sea duty billets remain difficult to fill, and the service is concerned that retention issues could follow a gradually improving economy.
The Navy increased pay rates for sailors at sea earlier this year, and it kept tuition assistance at 100 percent despite initial plans to curtail the benefit.
The service has also expanded eligibility for its Command Advancement Program, which allows sailors at sea to be promoted early and without an advancement exam.
Carrier groups are now making nine- and 10-month cruises, compared with the six-month tours common in the past. The Navy wants to standardize deployment length to eight months.