One of our readers, Brian, told you last fall about new rules meant to save the Government money by reducing the amount of per diem for long term stay (over 30 days). Here is the text below for the new rules that took effect 1 Nov 14.
Flat Rate Per Diem for Long Term TDY (Effective 01 Nov ‘14). Establishes a flat rate per diem allowance for long term TDY that would authorize a traveler 75% of the locality per diem rate for TDY periods over 30 days but not exceeding 180 days. This item also establishes a flat rate per diem allowance for TDY in excess of 180 days to be set at 55% of the locality per diem rate.
Congressmen Derek Wilmer D-Wash. and Walter Jones R-N.C. have introduced legislation, lobbied for by Federal worker unions, that will roll back the DoD attempts to save money on per diem. The Government rationale for the proposed change can be summed up by this statement:
The Defense Travel Management Office said the changes create an incentive for Defense Department travelers to find cheaper long-term lodging. Extended-stay hotels offer kitchenettes and refrigerators so “people aren’t eating out at an expensive restaurant every day,” DTMO director Harvey Johnson said in an October DOD News report.
Here is the link to the Stars & Stripes article.
I know from working with the FAA ten years ago that they already had a rule for reducing long-term per diem and if the workers couldn’t find a place to stay for the lower per diem, they had to ask for a waiver which was almost always granted.
However, I think this is a little different with the military. In my experience, long-term TDY most often occurs with initial entry skills training like my officer basic course. I have already seen this be a problem for some junior Service Members (even without the reduction) who attend something like intel training at Ft. Huachuca only to be turned away from living on-post due to lack of BEQ space. So they end up living on the economy in some motel racking up big expenses that the unit has to try to quickly get processed before the SM maxes out her Government Travel Card. Now we want to put the burden of asking her (or him) to negotiate a lower rate or go find a cut-rate motel in order to get to 75% or 55% per diem for lodging. Kind of a lot to ask an E-2 to do.
Lodging is what is really the issue, not M&IE. I wish there was a way for them to separate these two and just reduce the M&IE for long stays. Maybe if DTS could automatically find long term rates that would fit the reduced rate, that would help. In the meantime, with 26 co-sponsors of the bill it sounds likely that this legislation will pass and force DoD to find another way to save $22 million.