By Debbie Gregory.
When it comes to finding ways to save money, the last place Congress should look is at military families, especially when both spouses are active duty service members.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is considering a proposal that would require dual military couples to receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) stipends at the “without dependents” rate, regardless as to whether or not they have children.
Currently, dual military couples without dependents each receive their respective BAH. In dual military families with dependents, the higher ranking service member receives BAH at the with-dependent rate and the lower ranking service member receives BAH at the without-dependent rate.
The BAH allowance is determined by geographic duty location, pay grade, and dependency status. It provides uniformed Service members equitable housing compensation based on housing costs in local civilian housing markets within the United States when government quarters are not provided. For servicemembers stationed outside the U.S. who are not furnished with government housing, there is Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA).
If enacted, this change would affect approximately 6.4% of active duty service members in dual-military marriages.
The proposed plan would save roughly $300 million over the next five years.
The Senate believes that the current BAH is too high, since the payout rates are typically higher than the cost of living in the areas where service members are stationed. But the Pentagon argues that BAH is a necessary part of military family compensation.
“While there would be some monetary savings in the BAH program achieved through implementation of a limitation of BAH payments for dual-military couples, the department objects to any limitation based solely on housing or marriage choices,” a DoD spokeswoman said.