As Washington continues to face budget challenges, Defense Department (DoD) Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal this week that raises significant concerns for our military and their families. Specifically, the DoD has proposed a five percent reduction to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), a core military benefit that compensates service members for their housing costs.
The proposed cutbacks to the BAH would increase out-of-pocket housing expenses for one million troops, which would impact apartment communities that serve the military. In addition, the BAH provides critical funding stability for the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, which has successfully transitioned a large portion of severely-deficient government-run housing into high-quality privately-owned and operated properties. So any BAH reduction would also reduce the income stream for these projects and jeopardize the continued success of the program.
However, the DoD proposal faces significant obstacles. NMHC/NAA, service member and veterans associations, and other industry advocates have raised concerns for months leading up to the release of the proposed budget about cuts to military pay and benefits. Most recently, we spoke out against BAH cuts for an Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the “Quality of Life in the Military.”
So far Congress has been unwilling to enact changes that impact military compensation, and is unlikely to until a comprehensive military compensation and benefits review that is currently underway is completed. Those findings are scheduled to be released in February of next year.
NMHC/NAA will continue to raise awareness among lawmakers about the negative impacts of a BAH reduction. We have stressed the importance of stakeholder discussions before any plan moves forward, and the need to thoroughly analyze the impacts on our military and their families.