Payment of Basic Allowance for Subsistence to All Enlisted Members at Three Military Installations Should Be Discontinued

FPCD-80-18: Published: Dec 5, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 1979.

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The administration of basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) by the Department of Defense (DOD) was reviewed. Recently actions were taken by DOD and the military services to improve food services and the administration of BAS. These actions, stemming from recent studies and tests, gave rise to concern over the continuing BAS expenses incurred at three military installations after the tests were completed. Normally, enlisted military members receive BAS only when they do not eat in Government dining facilities for certain authorized reasons. At the three test installations all enlisted personnel were paid BAS and required to purchase their meals. Dining facilities were converted to a-la-carte style with individual item pricing.

Test results showed that various cost and management benefits resulted from the a-la-carte and all-BAS concepts: the need for meal cards and related control and security were eliminated,; food economy was encouraged; feeding costs were significantly reduced; and enlisted personnel showed a preference for both the a-la-carte concept and the combination all BAS/a-la-carte concept. Additional costs were incurred because the enlisted personnel did not always eat in the dining hall. It was the Air Force position that the payment of all cash BAS to enlisted personnel was the ultimate goal for a majority of the airmen. Its request was approved for indefinite continuance of the a-la-carte concept and BAS payments to all enlisted men at Loring Air Force Base, Maine. Defense officials concluded that the increased costs prohibited the adoption of the all-BAS concept on a DOD-wide basis, but that the a-la-carte concept provided many benefits without a large increase in expenditures. It was recommended that all services adopt the a-la-carte system, where feasible. GAO believed the a-la-carte concept appeared to be a reasonable alternative to the existing system and could improve food service operations, reduce food costs, and improve morale. However, the practice of paying cash BAS to all enlisted personnel at the three former test sites should be discontinued because the benefits derived cannot be quantified in relation to the substantial increase in annual cost, and it is not fair and equitable to other members.

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