How the Government is Aiming to Penalize Military Families

Every few years a proposal emerges through Congress that in some way targets cutting military spending. The military is certainly a massive budget line for government spending, but I can't help but notice that frequently the spending cuts are punitive (both subjectively and objectively) measures against service members.

The most recent iteration I've seen was one that aimed to change military housing stipends. Right now, the military has Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for active duty service members. Currently BAH is based on zip codes and each rank is given a flat rate for that location. The flat rate is determined by average rents in a given location. So if you're a service member in Honolulu, Hawaii, you'll get more for rent than someone in Millington, Tennessee, because rents are generally higher in HI than TN.

Since this is a flat rate, service members tend to use it as part of their housing budget. For example, if the service member's BAH is $1500 a month that person might choose to rent a house for $1300 a month, then use the remaining $200 for utilities. Or they could rent an apartment for $900 a month, and use the remaining $600 BAH money for living expenses.

The proposed change would give stipends based on what service members actually spend on housing. While it sounds good on paper, it would likely be a decidedly difficult prospect on military families.

In almost all military families, the military spouse is under employed, largely due to needing to move regularly and employer's unwillingness to hire someone who has an "expiration date" for employment. Renting a home that is significantly under the military housing stipend is one way military families save to make up the wage disparity of dual earning homes.

I know this from first-hand experience. I'm a military spouse, and for nearly 2 years, I was unemployed because I couldn't find a job. I tried. We knew moving out to RI from CA that I was leaving a high-paying government job and that it was not guaranteed that I'd find another position. So my husband and I found a house that cost about half of our BAH to make sure we could afford the cost of living in case I wasn't able to procure employment. It turned out to be necessary.

My story on utilizing BAH is by no means unique. Service members regularly find housing below BAH rates to make up for lack of civilian employment for their spouse. Even with government programs giving preference for hiring military spouses, most spouses remain unemployed or under-employed.

The thing that ticks me off is that the government is looking to reduce the amount spent on military housing, something that would have a decided negative impact on actual military families, before looking into even bigger cost savings in military and government spending. The new program's potential to in fact cost more in implementation than the current system negates any potential savings benefit.

Why isn't anyone reforming end of year government spending? Or reforming the un-necessarily bloated Defense Acquisition Program that lines government contractor pockets? Or maybe not buying quite so many big guns, rockets, and other instruments of death that far exceed the capacity and requirements of the current military?

Yes, military spending needs reform. All government spending needs reforms. But before we take from service members who give everything for this country, let's look to see if there are other ways to trim the fat first.