Defense secretary announces host of new policies to help military members with rising cost of living



CNN

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a series of policy changes to help service members and their families cope with rising housing, food and childcare costs amid high inflation.

While President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the Department of Defense includes a 4.6% salary increase for military service members beginning January 1, 2023, the current annual rate of consumer inflation in United States is 8.3%.

Many of the policy changes announced by Austin will go into effect in October. They include changes to housing allowances for active duty members, changes to policies regarding permanent shift changes service members are required to make for their assignments, and additional programs for child care. and the employment of military spouses.

“The members and families of our services must be able to provide affordable basic needs. It’s a matter of fundamental financial security and a critical issue of individual preparedness,” Austin said in a memo to senior Pentagon leaders and combatant commanders announcing the policy changes Thursday.

Some of the policy changes Austin is implementing come from ideas of military service members themselves, and all are a “direct response” to what Austin has heard from military service members and their families “at past 20 months,” the Pentagon press secretary said. Brig. said General Pat Ryder.

“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 that come straight from the Force, and they reflect his commitment to sacrificing families. each day to serve.

Austin ordered an automatic increase in the basic housing allowance for active duty members in the 28 military housing areas in the United States that have seen “an average increase of more than 20% in rental housing costs this year,” Austin said in the memo.

Austin also ordered a change in the length of time service members are eligible to have temporary lodging expenses covered when they must make a permanent move change or move required for their military service assignment, from of October. Austin has increased coverage for temporary accommodation costs from 10 days to 14 days for moves within the continental United States. The DoD will now also allow up to 60 days of temporary housing expense coverage “if a member is in a specified military housing area with a housing shortage,” the memo says.

During these moves, members also receive a travel allowance. All service members will now receive their travel allowance “automatically one month prior to their move date to anticipate disbursements,” the memo said. For military ranks E-1 to E-6, their travel allowance will also be increased. This will come into force in October.

Austin also ordered military commissioners to “reduce prices at checkout, with the goal of achieving at least a 25% savings on grocery bills compared to the local market,” he wrote.

For military service members and their families whose gross household income is below the federal poverty level of 130%, the DoD will pay them a Basic Needs Allowance beginning in January, the memo said.

This allowance is “designed” to bring those service members and their families “back to that level,” said Defense Department director of military compensation Jeri Bush. The allowance will vary according to the families’ needs.

To help address “child care shortages affecting the entire country,” the Department is instituting a “minimum 50% employee discount for the first child” of military family members who work at one of the Army’s Child Development Program facilities “to help attract more talented personnel and to increase capacity,” according to the memo. This new reduction will come into effect in October.

To help increase employment for military spouses, the department will “launch a new career accelerator pilot initiative” in January “that will match military spouses with paid private-sector scholarships in a variety of career paths,” says the memo.

All of these measures are designed to help military families cope with the rising cost of inflation that is impacting housing, food and jobs across the country.

“We remain deeply committed to doing good through our military families, just as our military families remain deeply committed to their loved ones and to the nation they all do so much to defend,” Austin said in the memo.

Austin will receive “regular updates” on the initiatives, according to the memo.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated which service members will automatically receive their travel allowance one month before their move date.

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