Tag Archives: Danger Pay

US Mission Iraq: War Over, Danger Pay and Hardship Pay Go Down, Oh, But It’s Confusing

According to the State Department’s allowances website, all State Department posts in Iraq have been designated 35% danger pay and 35% post (hardship) differential pay posts.  The US mission in Iraq designation at the top 35% danger/35% hardship pay bracket has been in effect since March 5, 2006.  All of 2004 and 2005 it was at 25%/25%.  All of 2003, it was between 20%-25%.

We recently learned that the State Department has nudged four Iraq regions down for both danger and hardship pay:

Danger/Hardship Pay, February 2012

Danger/Hardship Pay, February 2012

Our understanding is that these new rates are now in effect but the Allowances website has yet to catch up.  This would be the first time in almost 7 years that US Mission Iraq is not at the top danger/hardship differential bracket.  This would also leave just the posts in two countries at the top danger rate bracket of 35%, one officially a war zone, while the other is not:

  •  Afghanistan: Kabul, Others
  •  Pakistan: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi (except Quetta which remains at 25%)

The State Department’s Office of Allowances does say on its website that “since conditions at Danger Pay posts are reviewed periodically to ensure that the Danger Pay continues only during the existence of conditions justifying such payment, it is possible for the Danger Pay designation to be removed or modified at any time.”

The when of that is what is curious.

We have previously blogged about the perplexities with State’s danger pay designation (see Where dangerous conditions are not/not created equal … and  State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts).

Below is a table of Iraq casualties between 2003-2012

Iraq Body Count (2003-2012)

Iraq Body Count (2003-2012)

Danger Pay Rate

2003   3004  2005   2006   2007   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012

20%     25%     25%     35%     35%       35%     35%     35%      35%     35%

We understand that State has its own danger pay factors and since we have no access to that, we’ll have to make do with publicly available information on just how dangerous Iraq was since 2003 based on casualties.  Note that when casualties in Iraq started going up in 2003, the danger pay rate was between 20-25%.  It remained at 25% the entire year of 2005.  It went up to the maximum rate of 35% in March 2006 and remained at the top bracket until this year. The U.S. military pulled out of Iraq in December 2011.  The casualties that year and 2012 remained above 4,000 but below the 12,000 casualties at the beginning of the war. The danger rate stayed at 35%.

Screen Shot 2013-02-24

While the casualties have gone down, the country remains dangerous.  Here is what the embassy’s  2012 Crime and Security Report had to say about Iraq:

Iraq is rated as a critical threat for terrorism and political violence by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Despite the general decline in terrorist-related violence, the security situation in Iraq remains fluid. In December 2011, U.S. forces completely withdrew from Iraq. Terrorists and insurgent groups continue to conduct large-scale, lethal attacks that often target personnel and facilities associated with both American organizations and the Government of Iraq.  Insurgents also continue to carry out effective small-scale attacks throughout Iraq that cause fewer casualties but hinder free movement and influence public opinion regarding safety and security.
/snip/
While total attacks against U.S. personnel have decreased over the last three months, the threat of kidnapping, rocket attack, and small arms fire against U.S. interests in Iraq remains high and subject to flux based on domestic political, regional, and international developments.
/snip/
Since the U.S. military has withdrawn from Iraq, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Iraq have an extremely limited ability to assist Americans in the event of an emergency. Many services which many existed in the past, such as U.S. military-provided medevacs, transportation, convoy support, lodging, Quick Reaction Forces response to incidents, and monitoring of Personnel Security Details, are not generally available via the U.S. Embassy or Consulates.

In August 2012 IRIN/UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had this to say about the situation in Iraq:

Assessments of security trends in Iraq vary wildly depending on who you speak to, how you count the statistics, and which period of time you study. But one thing is clear: bomb blasts, targeted killings or improvised explosive devices are still a daily occurrence in Iraq.

Last week’s coordinated attacks – leaving more than 100 people dead – set a record for the highest number of deaths in a single day in more than two years, displaying the continued ability of insurgent groups to strike. A double bombing in the capital yesterday brought July’s death toll to 245, according to a count by Associated Press.

While the US and the Iraqi government insist that security gains have been made in recent years, UN and independent analysts characterize the situation as having stabilized at an unacceptably high level of violence, albeit now concentrated in more specific areas.

One might argue that the departure of the U.S. military has made working in Iraq more challenging, thus justifying keeping the mission at 35% in 2011 and 2012. But the U.S. military has not returned to Iraq in 2013, so what has changed to merit bumping down the rates?

Is the reason the danger rate is a notch lower due to improved security? Really?  Or is this due to the looming sequestration? Whatever it is, it is muddy as heck.

Here is another interesting example — Yemen.

The US Embassy in Sana’a was a 20% danger post in 2006,  2007 and part of 2008.  On September 17, 2008, the embassy was attacked which resulted in 19 deaths and 16 injuries.  According to Wikipedia, six attackers, six Yemeni police and seven civilians were killed.   On October 26, 2008, the embassy’s danger rate went up to 30% where it remained to-date.

We understand that until last year, embassy personnel were driving their own vehicles, traveling around the country, taking taxis, and living in their own apartments.  For security reasons, they now  live in the old Sheraton Hotel Sanaa (apparently also known as the New Green Zone Sanaa) which has been leased by the US Embassy reportedly until January 2018.  The staff is not allowed to travel anywhere with one exception and only with armored vehicles.  Of course, the embassy lost a good number of its armored vehicles during the mob attack.  Unlike the US Embassy Tunisia where there were publicly available photographic evidence of the damages, the US Embassy Sanaa reportedly kept a tight lid on photos of the embassy damages in the aftermath of the attack.  For what reason, we do not know.  Perhaps they did not want to upset the host country?  In the meantime, the U.S. ambassador and American soldiers at post have a bounty on their heads until June 2013 (see US Embassy Yemen: AQAP Offers Gold Bounty for Ambassador Feierstein). And the danger rate remains at 30%.

Can somebody please grab the tail on what’s going on here? People need to understand the whys of this process. Whether they volunteered or were voluntold, they deserve a good explanation. C’mon guys, don’t make this rocket science.

Also we’re hearing that the priority bidding season for Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan or AIP is about to expand to include Libya and Yemen. One of our blog sources wondered out loud if the new bidding season might be called iPLAY.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Compensation, Counting Beans, Foreign Service, Iraq, Pakistan, Realities of the FS, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions

State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts

We posted yesterday about a brand new office within Diplomatic Security with a new Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for “evaluating, managing, and mitigating the security threats, as well as the direction of resource requirements at high threat diplomatic missions.”

The news report from the National Review dated Nov 30 listed the 17 high threat missions as the diplomatic facilities in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. The list of posts includes Syria but not Algeria. It also includes Nigeria, not Niger.  The more recent CBS News report dated December 8 includes 17 diplomatic missions with Algeria, but not Syria; and Niger not Nigeria. The same CBS report cited a senior State Department official saying that “no congressional approval was required for the bureaucratic shift and no new funds were involved.”

We were curious how these new list of high threat posts square with posts currently receiving danger pay designation. Danger pay is additional compensation given to State employees above basic compensation for service at designated danger pay posts “where civil insurrection, terrorism, or war conditions threaten physical harm or imminent danger to all U.S. Government civilian employees.”

As of December 2, six of the 17 reported new high threat posts have zero danger pay: Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Mauritania, Niger.  We’re listing Niger below since that’s from the later report dated December 8. If the list does include Nigeria as mentioned in the National Review report, then that’s the only mission on the list designated at 10% danger pay.

Hi-Threat Posts - Diplopundit.net

Data extracted from

http://aoprals.state.gov/Web920/danger_pay_all.asp
Diplopundit.net

Also several posts with comparable danger pay are not on this reported high threat list.

Syria is a 25% danger post. It is not on the list presumably since the U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February 2012.

Algiers, which is on one list but not the other is a 15% danger post with posts outside the capital city designated at 25%.

Lebanon is a 20% danger post as well as a Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo, both in Mexico. The West Bank in Jerusalem and Karmi’el in Israel both also get 20% danger pay.

Other posts designated danger pay posts at the 5, 10, 15% differential level are listed here.

The question we have is — if these 17 posts are considered high threat missions, how come six of these missions are not even designated danger pay posts?

Is it possible to be a high threat mission and not be a dangerous mission? How does that work?

On the other hand, how is it that 20% danger posts in Lebanon, Mexico, Jerusalem and Israel are not included on this high threat list?

And while Jordan, a 15% danger pay post made it to the high threat list, there are a good number of 15% danger posts that did not make the list. For instance, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, a couple posts in Mexico and several posts in Africa.

What then are the basis for the high threat designation?  Are there secret factors not identified in the Danger Pay Factors Form (FS-578) that are required prior to the high threat designation?   Are these two totally unrelated? And if they are, does that make sense?

domani spero sig

Updated 8:06 PST:  Added distinction between Niger and Nigeria from the available reports.

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Filed under Countries 'n Regions, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Security, State Department, U.S. Missions