By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon on Thursday announced a number of new programs aimed at helping service members who face housing shortages and high food and living expenses when moving from base to base. other.
Gil Cisneros, undersecretary for personnel, told reporters that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the moves, which also include programs to extend childcare and make it easier for young people to find jobs. spouses.
The new programs, he said, will help “ensure that we continue to offer a competitive suite of benefits that make DOD the employer of choice for those who serve so selflessly.”
With growing competition from companies looking to hire young people in a tight labor market, the military services are struggling to meet their recruiting goals.
Housing has been one of the main issues over the past two years. Service members transferred to new duty stations have complained of difficulty finding rentals, especially those they can afford, as rising housing costs exceed their military allowance. In response, Austin ordered increases to the base housing allowance in 28 areas where rent has risen more than 20% above current allowances.
Austin also spearheaded a permanent increase in temporary housing spending for service members moving to areas with housing shortages. Troops will now get 14 days – up from the previous 10 – of temporary living expenses for moves within the United States, and up to 60 days in areas with housing shortages.
Both housing changes will take effect next month.
Austin also ordered price reductions to base commissioners.
Brig. Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder said the department is eliminating the requirement that commissioners maintain a specific profit margin to cover their operating costs, allowing them to lower prices on staples like bread, milk and eggs. He said that in about two weeks, members of the service should see some prices drop by about 25%.
Austin also ordered the department to increase funding for child care centers so they can accommodate more children. And he made it standard policy to give servicemen working at the centers a 50% discount for a child going there.
And he said the department will work faster to put in place interstate agreements to help military spouses transfer their professional licenses when they move to another state. Spouses often have difficulty finding new jobs when the service member is deployed to a new base because their professional licenses or certifications are not recognized in that state.
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