Pentagon needs to clear up confusion about housing allowances, report says

Base commanders need more information on how the Pentagon sets annual housing allowance rates in order to dispute allegations of unfairness by service members, according to a new General Accounting Office report. In January 2000, the Defense Department changed the way it calculated housing allowance rates, resulting in significant rate discrepancies in some areas. Some service members received considerably lower rates than their colleagues in the same pay grade at the same installation last year, sparking questions of fairness, the report, "DoD Personnel: Improvements Made to Housing Allowance Rate-Setting Process," (GAO-01-508) said. "Compared to 1999 levels, rates declined by more than $200 a month for some service members, and DoD decreased rates in some areas in which housing costs were rapidly increasing," said the report. More than half of the local housing allowance rates for members with dependents dropped last year from 1999 levels. The rapid move to a new rate-setting system triggered the substantial differences, GAO concluded. Congress mandated the rate-setting changes in the fiscal 1998 Defense Authorization Act. Each year, a Defense contractor calculates the cost of living in 350 locations in the United States. Those calculations are used to determine housing allowances, which go into effect Jan. 1. Under the former system, housing allowance rates were based primarily on service members' expenditures for housing in geographic areas. The new housing allowance system bases allowances on local costs for the housing standard set for each service member. The standard is based on an individual's rank, number of dependents and geographic location. Under the new system, the Defense Department established six housing standards, ranging from a one-bedroom apartment to a four-bedroom, single-family detached house, and applied a standard to each pay grade. The goal of the new rate-setting system was to ensure that service members in a particular pay grade could obtain the same type of housing and pay similar out-of-pocket costs, regardless of geographic location. The housing data collected by the Defense contractor was accurate and did not cause the disputed rate discrepancies, GAO found. Defense had planned to implement the new system over a six-year period, ending in 2003. However, to benefit those service members living in high-cost areas, Congress authorized additional funding in 2000 for Defense to accelerate implementation of the new program. The accelerated time frame, coupled with a rate protection provision, were chiefly responsible for wide discrepancies in rates, according to GAO. Under rate protection, service members already living in an area with declining housing allowances got the old allowance rate, while the new lower allowances applied only to those who were new to the affected areas. Rate protection resulted in service members in the same pay grade at the same installation receiving different allowances depending on when they moved there. GAO said part of the problem was a lack of communication and recommended that Defense share the specifics on how housing allowance rates are calculated with installation commanders. Defense said it will encourage the military services to provide their installations with more information to help answer service members' questions. Defense officials said the department had corrected errors in the new rate-setting process and assured GAO the January 2001 rates are fair and accurate in all areas of the country.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.