California Democrat James Kimber, who is running for Congress against Republican Representative Duncan Hunter, contacted me Sunday evening to make me aware of an under-reported story. Kimber spoke with a voter in his district over the weekend and discovered that soldiers stationed in Bahrain will no longer receive Imminent Danger Pay starting June 1st. The voter, whose son is stationed in Bahrain, wanted to know why the Department of Defense was taking Bahrain off of the list of countries eligible for Imminent Danger Pay. By taking Bahrain off of the list, soldiers stationed there will experience a cut in pay of $225 a month.
Kimber wrote the following email to me on Sunday evening regarding his thoughts on the matter:
This past week I read a lot of stories about our service members and their right to buy tobacco products, but there is another story equally deserving of attention but seemingly overlooked. I support our troop’s freedom to use tobacco products but I’m troubled that there has been little or no talk about the fact that troops serving in harm’s way are having their pay reduced.
Earlier this year the Department of the Defense in an effort to reduce Defense spending took Bahrain off the list of locations that qualify for “Imminent Danger Pay”. Bahrain is a small island located to the east of Saudi Arabia and home to the U.S. 5th Fleet. This change will save the DOD $108 million per year and some personnel claim Bahrain is much safer than some cities in the U.S.
I disagree and feel our servicemembers serving in Bahrain should receive the imminent danger pay. The base in Bahrain has the largest security force of any Navy base with almost one third of the personnel stationed there part of the security force. Some have questioned if there is no imminent danger, why does the base have that level of security and why are there so many areas of Bahrain that are off limits to personnel who are stationed there. Even the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Greenert objected to the removal of the danger pay. And for comparison here are some of the countries that still have Imminent Danger Pay designation: Greece, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Department of Defense has said we need to cut costs, but aren’t there other ways to cut without taking it from our servicemembers? Congress authorized $436 million on tanks both the Secretary of the Army and General of the Army both said they didn’t want. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported $771 million on military aircraft for the Afghans that they can neither fly nor maintain. Or the $34 million on the 64,000 square foot military headquarters in Afghanistan that has never been used and is going to be demolished.
Bahrain is still in an area of the world that presents an imminent danger and for our servicemembers to have their pay cut by losing this pay is inexcusable. Many servicemembers pick this location because of the extra pay ($225 per month) and now with the loss of that pay, how many are going to rethink choosing such an assignment? It would seem with the countless examples of waste in Defense spending we could still make cuts and keep the imminent danger pay for our servicemembers who clearly deserve it. The Imminent Danger Pay for Bahrain will cease on June 1st. This past week saw the passage of an amendment to the defense bill that will keep the sale of tobacco on ships and in military stores. But not every servicemember in Bahrain uses tobacco yet they all deserve imminent danger pay. Congress needs to find other means to cut from the defense bill and stop taking it from our servicemembers pay.
Kimber references the fact that Hunter recently pushed for service members to continue to have the ability to buy tobacco products on bases or ships. Hunter has tried to make some hay with the military by supporting their right to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products. However, he hasn’t really said anything about the issue that many members serving in our military in a dangerous part of the world are going to see their pay reduced. In fact, last November, he openly criticized the Pentagon for wasteful spending and told them to find ways to cut costs. It is bad enough that so many members of our military are already living on the bottom rung of this nation’s economy. Over the past decade, military members have become more and more reliant on food stamps to help offset their low wages. Therefore, it seems especially cruel to drive down the pay of those serving overseas in our military.
I’ve highlighted Kimber on this site several times over the past few months. Despite the fact that he is seemingly in a very Red district, he has shown some real tenacity and fortitude in this race. Rep. Hunter has his hands full and needs to realize that he won’t be able to breeze to an easy victory in November. By tackling real issues and bringing them to the forefront, Kimber is letting the voters in his district know that he will take the job of US Congressman seriously.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).