WASHINGTON The Pentagon said on Friday it had cut by about a third the list of places where U.S. troops get imminent danger pay, dropping locations like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in a move expected to reduce costs by about $100 million a year.
"The imminent threat of physical harm to U.S. military personnel due to civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions has been significantly reduced in many countries. As a result, IDP will be discontinued in those areas," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Among the more than 20 locales dropped from the new list, which takes effect June 1, is Bahrain, headquarters to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, plus the waterways of the neighboring Gulf, Arabian Sea and Red Sea, where the Navy regularly deploys its ships.
Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan also were removed as countries where U.S. forces receive imminent danger pay. The U.S. military has forces in several of those countries as well. In many cases, the airspace above the country or waterway also was removed from the list.
Military personnel will continue to receive imminent danger pay for serving in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States fought wars over the last decade. They will also get it in Jordan and Turkey, which border Syria, where a civil war is raging.
The sea near Somalia, where pirates have been active, is on the imminent danger list. So is Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the home of the U.S. prison for captured enemy combatants, as well as Israel, Azerbaijan and the city of Athens, Greece.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department spent about $500 million on imminent danger pay in 2012. Military personnel receive $7.50 per day when working in areas where they are eligible for the special pay, up to a maximum of $225 per month, he said.
Warren said the decision to drop places from the list followed a regular review and was not budget-driven. The reviews take place every couple of years, he said, with the last one being in 2011.
"This is a routine recertification. ... The combatant commands take a look at the security situation in their areas and make recommendations," he said.
Warren said 194,189 military personnel received imminent danger pay in 2012, the most recent year for which there were records. As a result of the changes, about 50,000 fewer people will receive the pay, reducing costs by about $100 million, he said.
A defense official said the cost reduction would be driven by two main factors - the continuing drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the removal from the list of so many places where the United States regularly deploys personnel.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay)