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


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

While President Joe Biden’s proposed Department of Defense budget calls for a 4.6% pay rise for military service members beginning January 1, 2023, the current annual consumer inflation rate in the US 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 the permanent change policy from station changes required for their deployments, and additional child care and employment programs for military spouses.

“Our service members and families must be able to secure affordable basic needs. It’s a matter of basic 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 stem from ideas from military personnel themselves, and all are a “direct response” to what Austin has been hearing from military personnel and their families “over the past 20 months,” according to Pentagon press secretary Brigg . said General Pat Ryder.

“Over the past 20 months, the secretary has met with military personnel across the country and around the world,” Ryder said. “Today’s actions are a direct response to what the Minister heard from our service staff. Some of these initiatives are ideas that came straight from the force, and they reflect his commitment to the families who make sacrifices every day to serve.”

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

Austin also ordered a change to how long service members are eligible for temporary housing expenses, which must be covered if they have to make a permanent change of station or a required relocation for their deployment to military service beginning in October. Austin increased temporary housing coverage from 10 days to 14 days for moves within the continental US. The Department of Defense will also now provide up to 60 days of temporary housing expense coverage “when a service member is in a designated military housing area with a housing shortage,” the memo said.

During these moves, the soldiers also receive a transfer allowance. All service members will now have their relocation allowance “automatically paid a month before their move date to protect against expenses,” the memo said. Service members ranked E-1 through E-6 will also have their dislocation allowance increased. This will come into effect in October.

Austin also directed military commissioners to “reduce prices at the 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 130% federal poverty guideline, the Department of Defense will start paying them a basic needs allowance starting in January, the memo said.

This allowance is “designed to bring those service members and families back to that level,” said Jeri Bush, Defense Department director of military compensation. The amount of the subsidy depends on the needs of the families.

To help with “childcare shortages affecting the entire country,” the department is introducing a “minimum 50% employee rebate for the first child” for military personnel working at one of the military’s child development program facilities, “to to help attract more talented staff and increase capacity,” the memo said. This new discount comes into effect in October.

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

All of these measures aim to help military families deal with the rising costs of inflation, which is affecting housing, food and jobs across the country.

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

According to the memo, Austin will receive “regular updates” about the initiatives.

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

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