Military Housing: DOD Needs to Address Long-Standing Requirements Determination Problems

GAO-01-889 Published: Aug 03, 2001. Publicly Released: Aug 03, 2001.
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This report reviews the Department of Defense's (DOD) family housing program. GAO discusses (1) whether DOD has implemented a standard process for determining the required military housing based on housing available in the private sector and (2) how an increase in the housing allowance is likely to affect the need for housing on military installations over the long term. Despite calls from Congress, GAO, and DOD's Inspector General, DOD has not introduced a standard process for determining military housing requirements. DOD and the services have worked to develop the framework for the process, but technical concerns, such as standards for affordable housing and commuting distance, have stalled its adoption. Increasing the housing allowance underscores the urgent need for a consistent process to determine military housing requirements because it is expected to increase demand for civilian housing and lessen the demand for military housing. From a policy standpoint, increasing the allowance better positions DOD to rely on the private sector first for housing because it removes the financial disincentive to living in civilian housing. From a management standpoint, considerable evidence suggests that it is less expensive to provide allowances for military personnel to live on the civilian market than to provide military housing. Although overall program costs are increasing significantly in the short term to cover increased allowances, DOD could save money in the longer term by encouraging more personnel to move into civilian housing.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should expedite the implementation of a consistent DOD-wide process for establishing military housing requirements, ensuring that the Department does not spend money on housing it does not need. Specifically, the Secretary should demonstrate the need for new construction, renovation, or privatization projects using a process that consistently and adequately considers the availability of civilian housing, before submitting requests for funds for the projects to Congress.
Closed – Implemented
DOD issued a draft policy on February 15, 2002, that provided a DOD-wide methodology to count suitable and affordable private sector rental housing available to military families and is using this to determine the extent of housing need in the DOD inventory. DOD issued its final policy on a revised housing requirements determination process in January 2003. The memo announcing the policy stated that the revised policy should provide a solid basis for justifying the number of family housing units actually needed on each installation.

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