Pentagon lays out new food, housing programs for troops, their families

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced a number of new programs Thursday that are aimed at helping service mem- bers who are struggling with housing shortages and steep food and living expenses as they move from base to base.

Gil Cisneros, undersec- retary for personnel, told reporters that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the moves, which also include programs to expand child care and make it easier for spouses to find work.

The new programs, he said, will help “ensure we continue to offer a com- petitive suite of benefits that makes DOD the em- ployer of choice for those who so selflessly serve.”

With growing compe- tition from corporations seeking to hire young people in the tight job market, the military ser- vices are struggling to meet their recruiting goals.

A key problem in the past year or two has been housing. Service members transferring to new duty stations have complained about diffi- culties finding rentals, particularly ones they can afford as escalating housing costs surpass their military allowance. In response, Austin or- dered increases in the basic housing allowance in 28 areas where rent has spiked more than 20% above current allowanc- es.

Austin also directed a permanent increase in temporary lodging ex-

penses for service mem- bers moving into areas where there are housing shortages. Troops will now get 14 days — rather than the previous 10 — in temporary living costs for moves within the U.S., and up to 60 days in areas where there are housing shortages.

Both of the housing changes take effect next month.

Austin also ordered price cuts at base com- missaries.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press sec- retary, said the depart- ment is eliminating the requirement that com- missaries maintain a spe- cific profit margin to cov- er their operating costs, allowing them to lower prices on staples like bread, milk and eggs. He said that within about two

weeks service members should see some prices go down by about 25%.

Austin also has direct- ed the department to in- crease funding for child care centers so they can take more children. And he made it standard pol- icy to give service mem- bers working at the cen- ters a 50% discount for one child to go there.

And he said the de- partment will work more quickly to set up inter- state agreements to help military spouses transfer their professional licens- es when they move to a different state. Spouses often have a difficult time getting new jobs when the service member is deployed to a new base because their licenses or professional certifica- tions aren’t recognized in that state.


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