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Pentagon warns inflation is becoming a ‘readiness issue’

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Inflation is now starting to hit US troops, with Pentagon officials warning that soaring costs are becoming a military “readiness issue.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his concern Wednesday when announcing a new program to help struggling military families deal with inflation-related prices hikes, which will include housing allowances and food security programs.

“This is a readiness issue, and that’s why I’m focused on making sure that our service members and our families have what they need to thrive,” he said.

The new allowances and program “won’t solve all the economic worries that our military families face, but they are important steps and we’re committed to getting this right,” Austin said.

“Men and women in uniform and their families have enough to worry about. Basic necessities, like food and housing, shouldn’t be among them.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon on November 17, 2021.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon on November 17, 2021.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Defense Secretary didn’t say how much money will be directed to the temporary programs, and it’s not clear where the funding will come from.

As part of the effort, the Pentagon will temporarily raise the basic allowance for housing in areas that have seen a 10 percent increase in rental costs over the past year, Austin said at a news conference.

The Department of Defense will also extend temporary reimbursements for lodging expenses so military families have more time to find a home, according to Austin.

According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, inflation is starting to affect the "readiness" of the military and had announced a new program to help struggling military families deal with hiked prices.
According to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, inflation is starting to affect the “readiness” of the military and had announced a new program to help struggling military families deal with hiked prices.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Additionally, Austin said the department will create a new program to “identify service members who are struggling” to connect them with services that provide help with housing concerns and food insecurity.

Prices throughout the economy — from airfares and hotel rooms to groceries and furniture — have been spiking at historic rates for months, according to federal data.

The Labor Department reported last week that its Consumer Price Index, which measures a basket of goods and services as well as energy and food costs, jumped 6.2 percent in October from a year earlier, the most in more than 30 years.

A staff member at the Fort Bragg, N.C., branch of the Armed Services YMCA takes bags of food to a military family's car.
A staff member at the Fort Bragg, N.C., branch of the Armed Services YMCA takes bags of food to a military family’s car.
Armed Services YMCA

It was the fifth straight month in which inflation surged more than 5 percent, year over year, under President Joe Biden.

The administration has said the price increases are only temporary and are rooted in supply chain issues that have cropped up as a result of many companies adjusting to the collapse in demand at the start of the pandemic and now being forced to snap back to record demand for goods and services as Americans emerge eager to spend.

But the latest CPI report showed costs creeping up in various sectors, suggesting that inflation isn’t only hitting industries severely affected by such supply chain constraints and stoking concerns that higher prices could be stickier than expected.

A volunteer loads food into a car at an Armed Services YMCA food distribution, October 28, 2021, in San Diego.
A volunteer loads food into a car at an Armed Services YMCA food distribution, October 28, 2021, in San Diego.
AP Photo/Gregory Bull

The White House, reversing from its former stance that inflation was not a severe issue for most Americans, finally acknowledged the issue last week.

“Everything from a gallon of gas to a loaf of bread costs more and it’s worrisome even though wages are going up,” Biden said.

“We still face challenges, we have to tackle them.”

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