Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a series of policy changes to help military service members and their families cope with rising housing, food and child care costs amid high inflation.
Although President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the Department of Defense includes a 4.6% pay increase for military service members starting January 1, 2023, the annual US consumer inflation rate is 8.3%.
Many of the policy changes announced by Austin will go into effect in October. These include changes to housing allowances for active duty members, changes to policies regarding permanent change of station moves that service members must make for their deployments, and additional child care and military spouse employment programs.
“Our Service members and families must be able to meet their basic needs. It’s a critical issue of basic financial security and individual readiness,” Austin said in a statement Thursday to senior Pentagon leaders and Combatant Commanders announcing the policy changes.
Some of the policy changes Austin is implementing have come from service members’ input, all of which are “in direct response” to what Austin has heard from service members and their families “over the past 20 months,” the Pentagon press secretary said. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said.
“Over the past 20 months, the secretary has met with service members across the country and around the world,” Ryder said. “Today’s actions are a direct response to what the secretary has heard from our service members. Some of these initiatives are ideas taken directly from the force, and reflect its commitment to the families that sacrifice every day to serve.’
Austin addressed the automatic increase in the basic housing allowance for active duty service members in 28 US military housing units that have experienced “an average increase of more than 20% in rental housing costs this year,” Austin said in the statement.
Austin also directed changes to how long service members must cover temporary lodging expenses when they have to make a permanent change of station move, or a move required for a military service job starting in October. Austin increased coverage for temporary lodging expenses from 10 days to 14 days for moving within the continental US. The DoD will also now provide 60 days of coverage for temporary lodging expenses “if a service member is located in a designated military housing area with a housing shortage,” the statement said.
During these moves, service members also receive a relocation allowance. For service members in grades E-1 through E-6, the deployment allowance will now “automatically be paid one month prior to the date of move to prevent out-of-pocket expenses,” the statement said. This will take effect in October.
Austin also instructed military commissars to “reduce prices on the register to achieve at least a 25% savings on grocery bills compared to the local market,” he wrote.
To military service members and those whose gross household income is below 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline level, the DoD will pay a basic needs allowance starting in January, the release said.
That bonus is “designed” to get those service members and families “back to that level,” said Jeri Bush, director of military compensation at the Department of Defense. The allowance will vary according to the needs of the families.
To help with the “daycare shortage affecting the entire country,” the Department is implementing a “minimum 50% employee discount for the first child” for military families working at a military child development program facility “to help attract more talented employees.” and increasing capacity,” the statement says. This new discount will take effect in October.
To help increase the employment of military spouses, the department will “launch a new career accelerator pilot initiative” in January that will “match military spouses with private sector grants in a variety of career paths,” the release said.
All of these measures are aimed at helping military families deal with the rising cost of inflation affecting housing, food and jobs across the country.
“We remain deeply committed to doing right by our military families, just as our military families remain deeply committed to their loved ones and to the nation they all defend,” Austin said in the statement.
Austin will receive “daily updates” on the initiatives, the statement said.