Lawmakers Aim to Improve Process for Setting Housing Rates
DOD would be required to follow recent recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) designed to improve the process for setting basic allowance for housing rates, under the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill approved last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Last month, GAO found that the military services have underestimated the amount needed to pay the allowance since 2006 by $820 million to $1.3 billion each year. Because the allowance is an entitlement for service members and must be paid, DOD has been forced to shift funds budgeted for other programs, the agency said.
GAO also found that installation officials cannot ensure the accuracy of the rates and personnel are not fully informed of potential housing costs because the department does not provide information on the costs that comprise the allowance. Officials are at a disadvantage in estimating rates in areas with low vacancy rates due to the lack of rental properties that meet the definition of “available,” which is limited to rentals on the market within four to six weeks prior to data collection.
The authorization bill and committee report are expected to become available later this week. The full Senate is expected to consider the measure before the August recess.
The measure includes other provisions intended to help military families as well. One would authorize the service secretaries to carry out one or more programs to provide personnel with job training and employment skills training to help prepare them for the civilian job market. The bill also would encourage DOD to expand efforts aimed at preventing service members’ homes from being foreclosed.
Finally, the measure would authorize $25 million in spending on supplemental impact aid for public school districts with military dependent children.