Air Force announces new cold-climate incentive pay

WASHINGTON — The Air Force approved a new incentive pay for airmen and guardians assigned to seven locations in some of the coldest parts of the United States, the department announced Tuesday.

The cold weather assignment incentive pay, which took effect Monday, is a lump sum payment given to airmen and guardians who sign up to serve a yearlong tour in places where the temperature drops 20 degrees below zero. Locations that meet this threshold include Cavalier Space Force Station and Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases in North Dakota, Eielson Air Force Base, Clear Space Force Station and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

“Airmen and guardians living in extremely cold conditions faced unique out-of-pocket costs,” Alex Wagner, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, said in a statement. “In addition to the assignment and retention benefits of the pay, it also comes down to making sure we do our best to take care of our service members and their families stationed at these critical installations.”

The payment intends to ease the financial burden of purchasing certain items such as cold weather gear, snow tires, engine block heaters and emergency winter car kits.

The announcement comes more than a year after the passage of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that outlines defense priorities and spending, which included incentive pay for service members based in cold-weather climate conditions.

Though the pay incentive took effect Monday, the first pay date is anticipated to be July 1, according to the statement. Airmen or guardians who move to a qualifying location between April 1 and June 30 will receive payment retroactively. The pay ranges from $500 to $5,000 for airmen and guardians depending on where they are stationed and how many dependents they have.