Specifically, the Pentagon will temporarily raise the basic allowance for housing in areas that have had a 10 percent increase in rental costs this year, and extend temporary lodging expense reimbursements so military families have more time to find a home.
Austin said he has also ordered the department to create what he called a “new toolkit” to help commanders “identify service members who are struggling” to connect with services designed to assist with housing concerns or food security.
The moves come in the wake of dire news about inflation, as consumer prices are up about 6.2 percent from a year ago, which marks the largest increase in 30 years. Rampant supply chain issues have also led to prices increases and have created economic instability.
Austin didn’t put a price tag on the new initiatives, and it’s not clear where the funding will come from. The Defense Department, along with the rest of the federal government, still doesn’t have a fiscal 2022 budget almost two months into the fiscal year so it’s funding is frozen at 2021 levels.
The Senate is taking up the 2022 defense budget this week, but there’s little chance it will pass by the Dec. 3 deadline, meaning a new temporary continuing resolution will be needed to fund the government.
“A long-term continuing resolution is not helpful to anyone,” Austin said. “It creates uncertainty and it limits our flexibility,” as well as putting on hold the annual 2.7 percent pay increase for members of the military contained in the bill.
Austin’s order gives the military departments 90 days to report back on their progress in getting financial help to the troops who need it.