Air Force Lodging Policies Violate Federal Law

Last week, I published a post criticizing the leadership at Holloman Air Force Base for its policy mandating TDY airmen stay in base lodging during multi-month RPA upgrade training.

There was some adverse response to that post in the form of “someone else has it tougher so stop whining, etc.” This is boilerplate rubbish. It is always on the menu anytime it is argued living conditions should be improved for airmen.

My response to that response is “got it.” I don’t care whether someone else has it worse or whether the Army or Marines take better or worse care of people. When something is subpar, we call it out. The point is not to set bar approximating a chosen level of mediocrity and then cultivate living conditions to that level. The point is to do the best for people and families that can possibly be done. To the extent Air Force commanders don’t do that (and in many cases don’t make a good faith effort), we will expose it.

The second criticism was fair but ultimately wrong. It contended that Holloman’s leadership had been within the bounds of the JTR by forcing airmen to stay on base rather than simply limiting their reimbursement to the on-base rate.

The reason the criticism is fair is that the JTR says conflicting things. In one place, it says servicemembers must use government quarters when ordered to a US installation if they are available and adequate. In another place, it says servicemembers will only be reimbursed at the rate of on-base lodging if they choose to stay elsewhere, implying they have that choice.

The reason this criticism is wrong is that since the new JTR was published (with its conflicting language), this question has been asked and answered thousands of times. Every commander knows or should know this. Every JA capable of making steam on a mirror knows or should know how to find the answer.

Instead, both commanders and their lawyer minions are cynically defaulting to what serves their interests.

Here’s the answer from the Defense Travel Management Office:

“If you’re required to stay in on-base quarters, you can choose to stay elsewhere – just be advised that your lodging reimbursement will be limited to the cost of the Government quarters if that choice is not based on a mission-essential reason.”

This issue is about doing what’s right for airmen rather than artificially sustaining a failing lodging operation that is more suitable for roaches and rodents in many cases than humans.

When base lodging becomes a good value proposition for airmen, they will use it. Until then, their choice should provide the healthy pressure necessary to push the USAF’s ailing services enterprise into reform.

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