The Obama administration on Wednesday voiced strong opposition to a controversial congressional proposal to cut back Basic Allowance for Housing for dual-military couples and for troops who share housing with other service members.
The policy floated by the Republican-controlled Senate would limit dual-military couples to one BAH payment, specifically the rate due to the couple's higher-ranking or senior-most service member.
The proposal also would reduce BAH payments for many unmarried troops who share a home or apartment with another service member. For those in paygrades E-4 and higher, they would see their normal BAH rate cut back by 25 percent.
About 40,000 dual-military couples are on active duty around the world today, according to the Defense Department.
One of those couples recently bought a home in suburban Maryland.
A cut like that would not be catastrophic, she said, noting that her mortgage payment is about $1,900 and potentially manageable on a single BAH payment. But she said she needs that money to help pay for graduate school and also to start a family, which would require full-time child care for two active-duty parents.
"I kind of look at BAH as a piece of my salary. For someone to say I should get paid less because of who I'm married to doesn't really seem fair," she said.
"They feel like they are being nickel-and-dimed," Raezer said in an interview Wednesday.
Today's troops have grown accustomed to a BAH policy that aims to cover up to 100 percent of estimated housing costs in a duty assignment's location.
That marks a big improvement from the 1990s, when BAH was intended only to cover about 80 percent of housing costs and troops and their families were expected to pay the remaining expense out of their own pockets.
Raezer said the rise in BAH has vastly improved service members' quality of life.
But now, as the Pentagon faces budget caps known as sequestration, BAH is a target for saving money.
DoD officially urged Congress to cut today's housing benefit to one that would cover only 95 percent of estimated housing costs. Congress gave that a cool reception last year and approved only a one-percentage-point reduction, to 99 percent.
The proposal in this year's Senate defense authorization bill would impose further gradual reductions.
The outcome of those proposals remains unclear. The House version of the annual defense bill does not contain any changes to BAH and the Obama administration's opposition to the cuts targeting dual-military families will put pressure on the Republican-controlled Senate to drop the measure from the bill in negotiations.
The cuts targeting families "will degrade the culture and environment needed to keep our military open and welcoming to military families and risks sacrificing the strengths they bring to our nation's defense," the Obama administration's statement said.
Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.