June 29, 2022

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Imminent Danger Pay: Actions Needed Regarding Pay Designations in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility

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<div>What GAO FoundThe Department of Defense (DOD) obligated more than $1 billion in imminent danger pay from fiscal years 2010 through 2013 in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility, excluding Afghanistan, according to data from the military services. In June 2011, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness requested the geographic Combatant Commands to assess existing imminent danger pay areas. The last such review had been completed in 2007. In January 2013, the U.S. Central Command recommended terminating imminent danger pay designations in many locations within its area of responsibility. However, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness had not completed its current review or made a decision as of December 20, 2013, when we transmitted a draft of our report to DOD. DOD's guidance on imminent danger pay requires a periodic review but neither specifies the frequency with which periodic reviews must be completed, nor stipulates a time frame by which the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness should render a final decision regarding the findings of the review. The Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government highlights, among other things, the importance of management-led reviews and clear policies and procedures as well as assurance that the findings of reviews are promptly resolved. In the absence of clear procedures and policies specifying time frames for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to complete reviews of imminent danger pay area designations and render a final decision, DOD is spending millions of dollars annually for imminent danger pay in areas within U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility that may not warrant this designation.Why GAO Did This StudyDOD relies on forward-stationed or rotationally deployed forces, bases and infrastructure, and host nation agreements to execute its mission around the world. This combination of forces, footprint, and agreements constitutes DOD's defense posture in a given geographic region.In December 2012, GAO began work reviewing DOD's posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, as part of series of reports examining DOD's global defense posture initiatives in response to direction from the Senate Appropriations Committee. As part of this review on posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, GAO examined posture costs in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility--including special pays, such as imminent danger pay, and benefits for service members who are assigned, deployed, or on temporary duty travel. In the course of that review, GAO identified issues related to DOD's process for reviewing and making decisions on imminent danger pay area designations, with regard to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.To conduct this work, GAO analyzed imminent danger pay and family housing cost data in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility from the military departments for fiscal years 2010 through 2013. To assess the reliability of the data, we interviewed cognizant DOD officials regarding the accuracy of data entry, limitations of the data, and the results of previous audits conducted on the data systems used. We determined the data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our review. GAO reviewed, and compared DOD Instruction 1340.09, Hostile Fire Pay and Imminent Danger Pay with GAO's Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government to evaluate the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness's process for reviewing imminent danger pay designated locations. Further, GAO obtained documentation from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and U.S. Central Command related to U. S. Central Command's recommendation to terminate imminent danger pay.</div>

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) obligated more than $1 billion in imminent danger pay from fiscal years 2010 through 2013 in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, excluding Afghanistan, according to data from the military services. In June 2011, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness requested the geographic Combatant Commands to assess existing imminent danger pay areas. The last such review had been completed in 2007. In January 2013, the U.S. Central Command recommended terminating imminent danger pay designations in many locations within its area of responsibility. However, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness had not completed its current review or made a decision as of December 20, 2013, when we transmitted a draft of our report to DOD. DOD’s guidance on imminent danger pay requires a periodic review but neither specifies the frequency with which periodic reviews must be completed, nor stipulates a time frame by which the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness should render a final decision regarding the findings of the review. The Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government highlights, among other things, the importance of management-led reviews and clear policies and procedures as well as assurance that the findings of reviews are promptly resolved. In the absence of clear procedures and policies specifying time frames for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to complete reviews of imminent danger pay area designations and render a final decision, DOD is spending millions of dollars annually for imminent danger pay in areas within U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility that may not warrant this designation.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD relies on forward-stationed or rotationally deployed forces, bases and infrastructure, and host nation agreements to execute its mission around the world. This combination of forces, footprint, and agreements constitutes DOD’s defense posture in a given geographic region.

In December 2012, GAO began work reviewing DOD’s posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, as part of series of reports examining DOD’s global defense posture initiatives in response to direction from the Senate Appropriations Committee. As part of this review on posture in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, GAO examined posture costs in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility–including special pays, such as imminent danger pay, and benefits for service members who are assigned, deployed, or on temporary duty travel. In the course of that review, GAO identified issues related to DOD’s process for reviewing and making decisions on imminent danger pay area designations, with regard to the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.

To conduct this work, GAO analyzed imminent danger pay and family housing cost data in the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility from the military departments for fiscal years 2010 through 2013. To assess the reliability of the data, we interviewed cognizant DOD officials regarding the accuracy of data entry, limitations of the data, and the results of previous audits conducted on the data systems used. We determined the data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of our review. GAO reviewed, and compared DOD Instruction 1340.09, Hostile Fire Pay and Imminent Danger Pay with GAO’s Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government to evaluate the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness’s process for reviewing imminent danger pay designated locations. Further, GAO obtained documentation from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and U.S. Central Command related to U. S. Central Command’s recommendation to terminate imminent danger pay.

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