Murkowski Urges Senate Colleagues to Stop Cuts to Military Basic Allowance for Housing

Senator: BAH Reform Not Appropriate Way to Thank Military Families

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke on the Senate floor today about an amendment she introduced to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would halt a provision currently contained in the NDAA – called Section 604 – that makes cuts and sweeping changes to the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) paid to active duty military families.

Background on Senator Murkowski’s amendment can be found by clicking here.

Senator Murkowski began by explaining the impacts the changes to BAH would have on Alaskan military families, saying:

“Military families in my state are very familiar with deep bureaucracy and a fair amount of hassle. I heard this loud and clear when I visited with military spouses in Fairbanks last week who spoke about concerns that they had about this proposal that they are seeing as another example of a one-size-fits-all solution that perhaps is not a well formed solution and could have extreme consequences for those who serve in highly rural places like Alaska. In Alaska the BAH doesn’t only pay for the house – it pays for the utilities—light and heat. But keep in mind what it means to be in a very rural and remote place like Fairbanks where you are limited for options for your energy and power, your costs are high. You could be looking at a home heating fuel bill on a monthly basis that could actually exceed the cost of your mortgage.”

She then explained why the proposed cuts just add to the strain military families already face:

“It is not like our military families don’t have enough to worry about. And that is over and above the anxiety that goes along with deployment. These days they must worry about force structure reductions, frequent PCS moves, needing to understand the latest and greatest Tricare complexities and figuring out whether the old retirement paradigm or the new retirement paradigm is better. You have another level of complexity with this. That just adds to the stress, adds to the anxiety.”

Watch Senator Murkowski's floor speech by clicking here. 

She then described some of the most apparent issues with the proposed cuts:

“It is burdensome, it is inefficient, it appears to completely eliminate the BAH increment presently paid to families with children. It penalizes dual-military couples and disproportionately impacts female servicemembers. It will hurt recruitment and retention and will have second order consequences with respect to administration of the GI bill educational benefit.”

Murkowski concluded her remarks by acknowledging some of her colleagues’ desire to reform BAH and advocating for a transparent process:

“There’s many among us think that BAH is in need of reform. Or that right-sizing BAH will mean more money for readiness and modernization. I get that argument. I may not agree with it but I know that there are hard choices that must be made in this difficult budget environment. But I feel very certain about one thing. Those who believe BAH should be reformed need to make that case openly and transparently to our military families. And putting a game-changing provision like Section 604 in the NDAA without that consultation really misses the mark.”

Related Issues: Defense, Veterans