In the opening days of the Persian Gulf conflict, attention has beeninexorably focused on the high-tech weaponry employed by allied forces and the dramatic advances that have been made in the machinery of war.
But one area that progress has passed over is special pay andbenefits for military personnel, says U.S. Representative Beverly B.Byron, D-6th.
Last week, the seven-term congresswoman offered a bill that wouldrevamp special payments and benefits for active personnel serving inthe gulf and for military reservists.
"The extraordinary and difficult circumstances" U.S. troops face in the gulf conflict make it necessary to retool the benefits, said Byron spokesman Beau Wright.
The impetus for the bill came from Byron's September visit to Saudi Arabia, where she observed U.S. operations long before the war began on Jan. 16.
"As Desert Shield unfolded, it became clear that more fine-tuning of the benefits and policies was needed," Byron, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in announcing the proposal.
"It was evident we needed to take quick action to remedy (benefits). That has taken on an even greater urgency now that Desert Stormhas begun."
The measure would increase a number of special payments military personnel receive in addition to their regular salary during special operations.
The bill calls for an increase in imminentdanger pay, which personnel receive when stationed where there is a probability of facing hostilities.
Currently, imminent danger pay stops when war is declared, Wright said. Byron's measure would preserve the special payment during wartime or national emergency.
The bill also requests a raise in "certain places" pay, for troops in locations where they face hardships because they are in remote areas, such as the lack of facilities in the desert. Family separation pay alsowould be increased, Wright said.
For example, the proposed measure calls for an increase in family separation pay, from $60 to $100 per month. The sliding scale for certain-places pay would jump from thecurrent $8 to $22.50, to between $25 and $50 a month.
Also, military officers would begin receiving certain-places pay, in addition toregular pay, if the measure is passed.
The benefits need to be improved as well, Wright said, to reflect changing needs of the all-volunteer force and the older reservists.
"What are the motivations for people (in the military)?" he said. "The answer is not pay. You'renot going to get rich in the armed forces."
The measure requests the German government to provide medical care for military dependentsin Germany because many U.S. military medical resources have been reallocated to the gulf.
The bill moves on to the Armed Services Committee, which likely won't consider the measure before President Bushsubmits his proposed budget in early February, Wright said.