Some service members are seeing rates increase — more than doubling in some cases — at official lodging, as the services adjust to having to operate the facilities without extra taxpayer dollars.
Those going on official travel to Air Force bases are seeing rate increases as of Nov. 1. The Air Force has also moved away from a single rate for all room types, to a tiered rate structure, with a range of rates. Thus, the rate will vary by installation. But those staying in visiting airman quarters, for example, are seeing an increase from $55 a night to anywhere between $68 to $129.
The singular rate “is no longer feasible to cover all costs of lodging while remaining within per diem rates at all locations,” according to Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Volpe.
Generally, for all branches of service, the rates will still be within per diem rates for that location. The Air Force, Army and Navy increased their room rates within the last year in anticipation of the requirement that they must stop using extra taxpayer dollars to pay to operate their lodging facilities used for official travel — for temporary duty as well as permanent change of station moves.
A November, 2018 DoD memorandum put the services on notice that as of Oct. 1, 2019, they had to stop using extra taxpayer dollars for anything related to the lodging facilities — whether it’s maintenance, 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.
This applies only to TDY and PCS lodging and operations worldwide, and doesn’t apply to 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.
The official lodging will in effect continue to receive taxpayer dollars in the form of troops’ room charges, because troops receive per diem from their units for the rooms based on the actual cost of the room. So in essence, these increases will cost units, not individual troops, more. Official travelers receive per diem, which is an allowance for travel expenses such as lodging and meals, with rates set based on location. 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.
Again, if a location has a lower per diem rate, the lodging rate will be within per diem levels.
Here's how the room rates are affected:
- Visiting airman quarters: $68 to $129, except for Thule Air Base, Greenland, where the rate is $185. Previously across the board the rate was $55.
- Temporary lodging facilities: $67 to $158. Previously, single rate of $77.
- Visiting officer quarters/visiting quarters: $67 to $149. Previously, single rate of $70.
- Distinguished visitor quarters: $78 to $196. Previously, single rate of $79.
- Large distinguished visitor quarters: $94 to $198. Previously, single rate of $83.
“The Air Force carefully monitors customer feedback and will continue to do so after the rates are effective,” said spokeswoman Capt. Carrie Volpe. The feedback to date has mostly been from people asking for information about why the room rates are increasing, she said.
Rates won’t increase at the Army’s overseas official lodging, said Scott Malcom, spokesman for Army Installation Management Command. They increased in October, 2018, in anticipation of the DoD-required changes, and officials sent guidance to the field about how to increase the fees. At the time, they estimated that rates would increase an average of 20.5 percent. But Malcom said that was a planning estimate, and when officials analyzed the actual increases, the average was lower — 17.5 percent.
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. It also doesn’t affect the leased lodging at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.
The Marine Corps’ Inns of the Corps has not increased its rates, due to the ongoing Secretary of the Navy initiative to privatize lodging, according to spokesman Bryan Driver.
There was no need to increase the rates for Navy Gateway Inns & Suites for fiscal 2020, because the increases in October, 2018 were sufficient to make the transition away from extra taxpayer funding, said Stephen Clutter, spokesman for Commander, Navy Installations Command.
With that increase a year ago, the rates vary by location, but 85 percent of the room rates 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.
Clutter said there have been no customer issues with the increases, partly because of the communication in advance of the rate changes. Again, official travelers don’t spend money out of pocket to stay in the official lodging; it’s funded by the per diem paid by their units.
There have been no complaints from those staying in the lodging on a space-available basis either, he said.
The changes don’t apply to Navy Lodges, which are operated by the Navy Exchange Service Command.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.