The Department of Defense (DOD) paid active duty military personnel over $18 billion in housing allowances in fiscal year 2010. DOD sets housing allowance rates annually based on market costs of rent, utilities, and renter's insurance. Also, DOD has identified 26 installations significantly impacted by expected growth in personnel due to various rebasing actions. The Senate report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (S. 3454) directed GAO to review DOD's rate-setting process, among other issues. GAO determined (1) whether there are enhancements to strengthen DOD's rate-setting process and (2) whether service members have encountered challenges in obtaining off-base housing. GAO reviewed program documents, including a 2010 DOD report to Congress, analyzed data, and interviewed DOD officials and subject matter experts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||To enhance the transparency of the housing allowance rates, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director of the Defense Travel Management Office to revise policies to provide information on the three costs that comprise the housing allowance rate (rent, utilities, and renter's insurance) by geographic area and housing profile to installation housing officials to better ensure local-market-based accuracy and to service members to increase understanding of the rate when selecting housing.|
|Department of Defense||To enhance the accuracy of the housing allowance rates, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director of the Defense Travel Management Office to more fully assess the benefits and drawbacks of revising the definition of "available" rental properties used for data collection purposes, either for all military housing areas or only those military housing areas that meet a certain low vacancy threshold.|
|Department of Defense||To promote more accurate budgeting by DOD, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and the military services to more fully identify the causes of inaccurate cost estimates for the Basic Allowance for Housing program and develop and implement procedures to improve these estimates. At a minimum, these procedures should include processes to more accurately estimate the number of service members who will receive the allowance.|
|Department of Defense||To ensure that current or future growth installations that experience housing challenges have access to information on tools to address these challenges, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to develop a communications process so that installations can more routinely share best practices and their use of tools and mechanisms to address housing challenges.|