Washington – The Pentagon announced a number of new programs Thursday aimed at helping service members struggling with housing shortages and costly food and living expenses as they move from base to base.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the steps, which also include programs to expand childcare and make it easier for the couple to find work, Jill Cisneros, undersecretary for personnel, told reporters.
He said the new programs would help “ensure that we continue to offer a competitive set of benefits that make the Department of Defense the employer of choice for those who selflessly serve.”
With increasing competition from companies seeking to hire young people in a tight job market, the military services are struggling to meet their own recruiting goals.
The main problem in the last year or two has been housing. Service members relocating to new duty stations have complained of difficulties finding rentals, particularly those they can afford as escalating housing costs exceed the military allowance. In response, Austin has ordered an increase in the basic housing allowance in 28 districts where rent has risen more than 20% above current allowances.
Austin also directed a permanent increase in temporary accommodation expenses for service members who move to areas where there is a housing shortage. Troops will now get 14 days – instead of the previous 10 – in temporary living costs for intra-US moves, and up to 60 days in areas where there is a housing shortage.
Both housing changes take effect next month.
Austin also ordered price cuts at base commissions.
File: Delegate at Joint Base Anacostia Pauling. (US Navy photo by Lieutenant Jim Remington / Released)
Brigadier General. General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said the department has eliminated the requirement that commissioners keep a set profit margin to cover operating costs, allowing them to lower prices for basic goods like bread, milk and eggs.
The Pentagon initially said service members would see some grocery prices drop by about 25%. But defense officials have since clarified that saying the new changes will lead to a 3-5% drop in grocery prices at most locations by mid-October. Troops who shop at commissaries routinely see a 21% lower price of groceries compared to civilian stores, and the latest additional price drop means total savings could be as much as 25%.
Austin also directed the department to increase funding for child care centers so they can take in more children. He has set a standard policy to give service members working at the centers a 50% discount for one child to go there.
He said the department will work faster to establish interstate agreements to help military spouses transfer their professional licenses when they move to a different state. Couples often have difficulty obtaining new jobs when a service member is deployed to a new base because their professional licenses or certifications are not recognized in that state.
This story was first published on September 22, 2022. It was updated on September 23, 2022 to correct that commissioners could see a 3-5%, not 25%, price drop on groceries at most locations by mid-October.
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