The Defense Department and military services are making progress in one of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's priorities — taking care of service members and their families.
In a September memo, Austin laid out specific actions to improve and enhance support to military members and their families in several important areas. Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder detailed some of DOD's progress during a news conference today.
"The secretary has been crystal clear that taking care of our service members and their families is a sacred obligation and a national security imperative," Ryder said.
In October, the department automatically increased the basic allowance for housing rates in 28 areas where rent has skyrocketed 20 percent or more, the press secretary said. While the increase will expire Dec. 31, the new BAH rates — which are an average of 12.1% higher — will kick off on Jan. 1.
"Also in January, we will pay a basic needs allowance to eligible service members," Ryder said. This assistance comes on top of next year's 4.6% pay raise.
"In addition to assisting with helping service members and their families secure affordable basic needs, we've also taken action to make military moves easier," he said.
In October, DOD permanently increased temporary lodging expense coverage to give families more flexibility to search for housing. The department also began paying dislocation allowance to all eligible service members.
Next month, the dislocation allowance will be increased for enlisted service members between the grades of E-1 to E-6 to help offset personal expenses for permanent changes of station Ryder said.
DOD is also working to provide additional support for military spouses. One program would expand spouse employment, while another looks to lessen the roadblocks for spouses who are relocating. "We know that one-third of military spouses must obtain new professional licenses every time they move to a new state," Ryder said.
"To ease this burden, we've accelerated the development of seven more interstate licensure compacts. We anticipate state approval starting in 2023." Ryder said the most important of these is the interstate teacher mobility compact, which is being introduced in state legislatures across the nation next month.
Also important to DOD is the improvement in childcare programs. "This past fall, we expanded the Military Childcare in Your Neighborhood-Plus program to more states, which will increase access to quality civilian childcare providers when on-base childcare is unavailable," he said.