Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has announced a series of changes designed to help service members and their families financially.
Austin, in a memo addressed to senior Pentagon leadership on Wednesday, announced automatic increases for the Basic Allowance for Housing starting next month, fully funding commissaries to cut grocery prices, expand spousal employment, and pay eligible service members an allowance, starting next year, for those whose gross household income is below 130% of the federal poverty line, Jeri Busch, the director of military compensation, told reporters on Thursday.
“We are cutting prices in our commissaries to achieve at least a 25% savings on grocery bills,” said Gil Cisneros, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “Compared to the local marketplace, commissaries are one of the best benefits we are able to offer service members and their families, and we're encouraging them to take advantage of the savings that we can provide.”
Austin is also extending the Temporary Lodging Expend, allowing service members to receive partial reimbursements on expenses incurred for travel or a move for longer, putting “significant investments” in Child Development Program facilities, and offering a 50% employee discount to attract staff for the CDP employees.
"Our mission readiness depends on a strong and resilient homefront and addressing economic security and other challenges. The Department will continue to ensure the readiness of our force and the strength of our national security," Cisneros explained.
Next year's National Defense Authorization Act will include a 4.6% pay increase for service members.
All of these changes that are designed to improve service members' and their families' lives come as every military branch is facing significant struggles recruiting new enlistees for a variety of reasons, defense officials have said.
In addition to a smaller percentage of people meeting the military's strenuous requirements, leaders have also pointed to the coronavirus pandemic as another negative factor contributing to the recruitment dearth, as recruiters have been unable to go to high schools or other similar grounds.