The Pentagon will ramp up monetary assistance to members of the military who are struggling to afford or locate adequate housing while also better advertising food programs, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Nov. 17.
“The pandemic and tight housing markets across the country have made financial struggles even tougher,” Austin told journalists in the Pentagon press room. “I’ve directed the department to take several steps to strengthen the economic security of our force.”
DOD will address housing and food costs with “immediate relief” as the holidays approach.
First, DOD temporarily raised the Basic Allowance for Housing in areas with a 10 percent increase in rental costs. In areas with housing shortages, the department will extend temporary lodging reimbursements beyond 10 days to give service members and their families additional time to find a home.
To address food security, DOD created a “toolkit” for leaders to identify struggling service members and connect them to available support programs. Austin also gave the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness 90 days to develop a roadmap to strengthen food security.
In a memo to the force on strengthening economic security, Austin said the issues were about readiness.
“This is a complex problem, and every level of the Department will own a piece of the solution,” Austin wrote.
The military’s Military OneSource web portal hosts the economic security toolkit to highlight resources available to service members. Other options to increase stability for members and families include extended tour lengths for accompanied overseas tours, exceeding the 36-month timeline for CONUS assignments, and increased flexibility for assignment report dates where housing wait times are a problem. Financial education and well-being for service members will also be expanded.
“Men and women in uniform and their families have enough to worry about. Basic necessities, like food and housing, shouldn’t be among them,” Austin said at the press conference.
“This is a readiness issue,” he added. “That’s why I’m focused on making sure that our service members and their families have what they need to thrive so that they can focus on the hard work of defending our nation.”