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Senators Press NDAA Conferees to Protect Basic Allowance for Housing

Bipartisan Group of Senators Push to Protect Basic Allowance for Housing for Military Members

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) joined U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and John Tester (D-Mont.) this week in a bipartisan effort to urge the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee to protect the housing benefits of dual-military families, women and junior members of the Armed Forces. 

Sen. Moran and 17 other senators sent a letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conferees to eliminate changes to the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) as they reconcile the House and Senate versions of the NDAA.

Full text of the letter may be found below:

July 14, 2016

Dear Chairmen McCain and Thornberry and Ranking Members Reed and Smith:

As you begin conference on the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we write to express our strong, bipartisan support for removal of the damaging changes proposed to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) in Section 604 of the Senate bill, S. 2943.  The consequences of the Senate proposals are negative and ill-considered. 

Specifically, the changes outlined in S.2943 would cause significant financial hardship to many military families and unfairly penalize dual-service military couples as well as single service members who cohabitate in order to make financial ends meet.  This proposal is particularly adverse for many women serving our country honorably, who have earned their due compensation.  Twenty percent of the women on active duty are in dual-military marriages, compared with only 3.8% of active duty men.  The proposed language also fails to account for the cohabitation of service members of different ranks.  As drafted, the amount provided for BAH would simply be divided by the number of uniformed personnel sharing the same housing—not defaulting to the higher BAH eligibility.  For example, an O-3 married to, or living with, an O-2 would only be eligible for the average of their individual BAH rates—further penalizing personnel. 

The occupancy proposal is also a disincentive for single service members to obtain uniformed roommates, undermining an important source of community, security, and support.  Effectively, we would be encouraging single service members—most often our junior personnel—to seek out civilian strangers as roommates instead of fellow uniformed personnel in order to retain their full housing allowance. Further, the administrative and programmatic requirements to implement these new restrictions would likely bring about costly, new administrative burdens to the military services, negating the cost savings these punitive policies are designed to yield.  Adequate research, planning, and understanding is required before such sweeping changes can be responsibly advanced.

The talented men and women of our Armed Forces are called upon daily to perform vital missions around the world.  In every one of those mission areas, our service members are the key to success.  Taking care of these individuals has to be our first priority.  We believe more thorough and thoughtful consideration is required before any such reforms are arbitrarily adopted. We simply cannot stand behind provisions that directly penalize dual-military families, women, and our most junior members and respectfully request that you eliminate Section 604 of S. 2943.