Moves and bonuses for Air Force personnel are being held up by congressional inaction

Thunderbirds Jet Crash
Joe Mahoney/AP Photo
A helicopter flies past U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration jets parked at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Thursday, June 2, 2016.

Updated 7:14 p.m. on Tuesday, July 11

The Air Force is facing a funding shortfall that could prevent some of the summer moves for personnel, known as a permanent change of station, as well as delay some reenlistment bonuses.

Any airman who doesn’t have PCS orders by Aug. 1 may see their moves delayed. The Air Force is also suspending the elective reenlistment bonus program for the time being.

As of 2021, there were just over 9,300 active duty Air Force personnel in Colorado.

“The Air Force is experiencing a shortfall in the FY23 Military Personnel Appropriation driven by higher than projected personnel costs,” said Ann Stefanek, Air Force spokesperson. 

She said moving costs have risen as a result of inflation. The addition of recruiting and retention bonuses has also strained the Air Force’s budget. 

“Headquarters Air Force is directing actions to be taken now to avoid exhausting funds. This includes delaying some PCS moves and bonuses.”

Usually when a service faces funding issues, they can submit a request to Congress, asking for approval from the appropriations subcommittees dealing with Defense, as well as the armed service committees, to move funds around. It is usually approved.

But according to a source familiar with the situation, DOD requests to move money around are still pending action by Congress.

The Military Times reports the request has gotten tied up in the ongoing fight over the long-delayed final basing decision for the U.S. Space Command headquarters. In the last week of the Trump Administration, the Air Force announced Alabama was the preferred location for the headquarters. But critics of that decision argue that former President Donald Trump chose the state over the recommendation by Air Force leaders to keep the headquarters in Colorado.

It’s not just Air Force funding, but all military reprogramming requests that have been held up.

The delay is not going over well with Sen. John Hickenlooper.

“Chairman Mike Rogers’ decision to block the Department of Defense from routinely reallocating funds is dangerous and harmful,” he said in a statement. “This is not how our nation should make basing decisions. Period. It is, however, how you penalize our troops for the sake of narrow political interests.”

Rogers, who chairs the House Armed Service Committee, pushed back against the criticism. The Alabaman said in an email, "It's unfortunate that the Junior Senator from Colorado chose to release a partisan, parochial and untrue misrepresentation of HASC processes. The Committee is continuing to review reprogramming requests from the Department of Defense." He did not address when that that would happen.

This latest conflict comes as Colorado’s senior Sen. Michael Bennet continues to butt heads with Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville over Tuberville’s ongoing hold on routine military promotions over the Defense Department’s abortion policy.

In a statement, Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said: “I look forward to a resolution of the U.S. Space Command decision in the near future. Airmen and Guardians can then focus on national security imperatives - countering and deterring Chinese and Russian aggression.”