Published: November 17, 2021
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that he’s ordering measures to help military families struggling to manage rising housing and food prices, calling the costs of basic goods a “readiness issue” for the U.S. military.
Austin said he’s temporarily raising the payments troops receive in certain locations to help pay for off-base housing. That will apply in areas where rental costs have climbed 10% or more. He also said he’s directing aides to find ways to “strengthen food security across the force.”
“This is a readiness issue, and that’s why I’m focused on making sure that our service members and our families have what they need to thrive,” Austin told reporters at the Pentagon.
Although the military has long had an issue with some service members struggling to make ends meet, accelerating U.S. inflation may be putting more military families in that category. Austin said the Pentagon will find a way to help service members connect to support programs.
The Pentagon’s move is another sign of the toll rising prices are taking on Americans. The debate over inflation — and whether it’s “transitory” or becoming entrenched — has affected debate over President Joe Biden’s infrastructure legislation and who should be the next chief of the Federal Reserve.
Rising costs are hitting American wallets despite recent wage increases, and come after federal pandemic relief expired for about 7.5 million people. Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings in October were 1.2% lower than a year earlier.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated hunger among military families, adding to pressure on lawmakers to grant them more federal nutrition assistance. Rising housing costs and food insecurity pose a risk to mission readiness, recruitment and retention.
A 2020 Military Family Lifestyle Survey by nonprofit Blue Star Families Inc. found that 29% of junior enlisted military members’ families reported hunger, compared with 14% of enlisted active-duty members’ families across all ranks. For example, an enlisted Army private with two years of experience or less can expect about $21,000 annually in basic pay, plus allowances for housing and subsistence.
U.S. military families face an “alarming rate of food insecurity,” magnified by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic repercussions, a key House committee said in a draft report accompanying the fiscal 2022 Pentagon spending measure.
Pentagon Moves to Help Military Families Struggling With Rising Costs
November 17, 2021