As defense officials continue to look for more money to shift to “higher priority” military programs, many travelers staying in official lodging are seeing an increase in room rates.
That’s because the defense officials have put the services on notice that they must stop using taxpayer dollars to pay to operate their lodging facilities used for official travel — for temporary duty as well as permanent change of station moves.
By Oct. 1, the service branches must stop using taxpayer dollars for anything related to these lodging facilities — whether it’s maintenance, and other operation support requirements, repair or construction. These lodging facilities will rely on money generated by their nightly room fees to sustain their lodging operations and meet DoD standards for adequate lodging.
Generally, the rates will still be within per diem rates for that location. Official travelers receive per diem, which is an allowance for travel expenses such as lodging and meals, with rates set based on location. That allowance is paid by taxpayer dollars, so in essence, the official lodging facilities had been receiving taxpayer dollars in two forms — the room fees, as well as taxpayer dollars that were allocated specifically to the facilities for operations and other aspects.
The DoD memorandum, issued in November, applies only to the TDY and PCS lodging and operations worldwide, and doesn’t include morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) recreational lodging, or military treatment facility lodging, to include Fisher Houses, and lodging facilities that are privatized or operating under an enhanced use lease.
For example, on Navy installations, the changes apply to Navy Gateway Inn & Suites which are the official lodging for all Navy TDY travelers, but not to Navy Lodge facilities, which are operated as non-appropriated fund facilities by the Navy Exchange Service Command.
DoD requires official TDY travelers to stay in DoD lodging facilities when performing any part of their TDY mission at a DoD installation. Rooms are often available on a space-available basis to other travelers.
Here’s how it affects lodging rates:
The rates at Inns of the Corps have not been changed because of the DoD memo, said spokesman Bryan Driver. Officials are working on the transition plan.
On Army installations in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the rate changes don’t apply because all of these lodging facilities are privatized under the Privatized Army Lodging (PAL) program, said Army spokeswoman Heather Hagan. These facilities were never subsidized by taxpayer dollars. It also doesn’t affect the leased lodging at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.
Overseas, the Army lodging rates have increased at an average of 20.5 percent, she said. Across the Army, 12 percent of lodging is not privatized.
Again, this does not affect recreational lodging such as the Armed Forces Recreation Centers.
Most customers of the Navy Gateway Inns & Suites are seeing an increase in room rates, said Stephen Clutter, spokesman Commander, Navy Installations Command. The new rates for each location do not exceed per diem rates for lodging at any location, he said.
The rate increases went into effect on Oct. 1, 2018. The rates vary by location, but 85 percent of the room rates are increased by $1 to $35 per night; 10 percent of rates increased between $36 and $64 per night; and 2 percent increased by $65 to $75. In 1 percent of the locations, rates decreased; 2 percent had no change.
For example, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the average nightly rate increased by about $45, and average nightly rates are around $156, according to a release from Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs.
For customers of the Navy Lodge facilities, which are operated by the Navy Exchange Service Command, these recreational facilities were already operated with non-appropriated funds, with very little taxpayer support. But as the memo takes effect there could possibly be some small increases, said NEXCOM spokeswoman Courtney Williams.
In 2019, Navy Lodge room rates were not increased across the board, but there were small increases at Navy Lodge Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Navy Lodge Moffett Field, California.
The nightly lodging rates for the Air Force Lodging Program facilities increased Jan. 1. The new rates are:
- $70 for visiting officer quarters/visiting quarters
- $55 for visiting airman quarters
- $77 temporary lodging facilities
- $79 for distinguished visiting quarters
- $83 for large distinguished visiting quarters
If a location has a lower per diem rate, the lodging rate will match that rate.
“The rate adjustment will allow Air Force Lodging to better maintain properties and modernize Air Force facilities for airmen and their families,” said Horace L. Larry, Air Force Services director, in an announcement of the new rates. “Although there will be a fee increase, we remain committed to providing our customers affordable prices and comfortable stays.”
The change will also move enlisted personnel supporting that lodging, reassigning them to other locations, “allowing them to better support wartime requirements,” the announcement stated.