Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (CA-26), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) introduced the Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act, which would direct the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to ensure gender equity in the cost of uniforms, a measure that ensures equal pay for all who serve in our nation’s military.
“As Chair of the Women Veterans Task Force, I’d heard repeatedly what the Government Accountability Office report found: women servicemembers pay far more than their male counterparts on uniforms,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “These gender-based inequities are antiquated, and we have a duty to ensure that all servicemembers are treated fairly and do not incur disproportionate out-of-pocket costs for uniforms. I am eager to work with Congresswoman Speier and Congresswoman Stefanik to advance this bill to make certain that the U.S. military executes equitable and inclusive policies for all its personnel.”
“Requiring servicewomen to pay more for uniforms than servicemen pay is blatant gender discrimination, pure and simple. The military requires servicewomen to buy swimsuits, dress pumps and other items that are either not required for servicemen or that have less-expensive equivalents for men, and GAO found that servicewomen have been more affected by mandatory uniform changes that must be covered out of pocket by the servicewoman. I am proud to support Rep. Brownley’s legislation to end this unfair and sexist ‘pink’ tax – an abuse I’ve fought to end my entire career – on America’s brave servicewomen,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee.
“The Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act is a straight-forward solution to address a tremendous gender-related inequity in the United States Military,” said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. “America’s selfless military women deserve equal considerations in all aspects of their service, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bipartisan bill.”
The Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act would incorporate the four legislative recommendations of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the parity of military uniform costs. The recommendations direct DOD to:
- Develop consistent criteria for determining which uniform items are considered “uniquely military,” so as to reduce differences in out-of-pocket uniform costs across services and by gender.
- Periodically review the items included in the services’ calculation of standard cash clothing replacement allowances for enlisted servicemembers to ensure consistency and address out-of-pocket cost differences across services and by gender.
- Forward plans submitted pursuant to the first two recommendations to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness for review.
- Review military service plans for changing uniform items to determine any potential out-of-pocket cost differences among the services or among genders within a service that may result, and to make any needed adjustments to ensure equity.
In 2019, Congresswoman Brownley offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 to direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze gender disparities in out-of-pocket uniform costs for men and women servicemembers. As Chair of the Women Veterans Task Force, Brownley had heard directly from servicemembers and veterans about the high cost of women’s uniforms and the disparities in out-of-pocket costs for women servicemembers. Brownley’s amendment required GAO to compare out-of-pocket uniform costs for men and women servicemembers in each of the Services of the Armed Forces, as well as past required uniform changes that have affected one gender more than the other. This language was retained in the final agreement, which was signed into law.
In February 2021, the Government Accountability Office released the required report which found that across all branches of service and ranks, women in the military pay several times more than men in out-of-pocket costs for uniforms, a violation of DOD’s principles of equal pay for equal work. In addition, DOD does not collect uniform data for officers because officers pay for their uniforms out-of-pocket. However, in the last 10 years, the services have made 18 changes to uniforms that disproportionately increased out-of-pocket costs for female officers. Because these disparities add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars over time, women are being paid less than men across the military. Read the GAO report, here.
Read the full text of the bill, here.
Issues: 117th Congress, Defense, Women Veterans Task Force