MOAA scored another advocacy win this year for the currently serving force in working with our partners in The Military Coalition and others to get Congress to include a provision in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) restoring long-term per diem rates. This provision would remove the reduced long-term per diem rates in place since 2014 in DoD regulations. The change affects currently serving military personnel as well as DoD civilians.
The issue: In 2014, DoD, as a cost-saving measure, reduced reimbursement rates for long-term per diem rates by 25 percent for travel ranging from 31 to 180 days and by 45 percent for even longer extended periods of time under temporary duty authority (TDY). Per diem rates for travel are tied to location and include lodging, meals, and some incidentals.
The current per diem rate for government agencies outside of DoD for FY 2018 is $144, broken down as $93 for lodging and $51 for meals and incidental expenses. Military personnel on extended travel for 31 to 180 days under the policy established in 2014 only receive $108 a day, and for longer-term travel beyond 180 days, personnel only receive $79.
What happened: In 2016, legislators, in a move that showed their intent to try and eventually move DoD back to the higher rates, provided authority in the FY 2016 NDAA for agency leaders and service secretaries to waive the rule under their own authority. The basic determination for a waiver being that the rate was not sufficient enough for the needs and circumstances of the servicemember on extended TDY.
In May 2017, reinforcing this move, the Government Accountability Office released a report that found the Pentagon's travel policies were causing problems with long-term travel requirements for department personnel.
Congress takes action: Following this report, Senate Armed Services Committee members Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced a bill in the 115th Congress that was adopted into the FY 2019 NDAA, now on its way to the president for signature.
The reduced rates had caused stress on currently serving active duty military personnel who were on extended TDY away from home station - particularly in high-cost areas. This change now effectively prohibits DoD from continuing its policy of cutting long-term per diem rates based on the duration of assignment.
MOAA applauds the efforts of members of Congress and others to bring about this change that restores long-term per diem rates for DoD. In the future, this will help both currently serving military personnel as well as DoD civilians to better meet the requirements of their service.