Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) released the following statement after the release of a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that women servicemembers’ out-of-pocket costs for uniforms are at least twice as much as their male counterparts.
“As Chair of the Women Veterans Task Force, one of the issues I hear about most from currently-serving servicewomen is that they are consistently required to pay more for uniforms than men,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “This report shows that both enlisted women and female officers are required to spend many times more than men on their uniforms – which is at odds with the Department of Defense’s (DOD) principle of equal pay for equal work. I applaud the DOD for accepting the GAO’s recommendations, and I look forward to working with Secretary Austin to ensure further equity for America’s servicewomen.
“I have worked to address gender disparities in uniform costs as part of my work to bring gender equality to DOD and VA. I am committed to crafting legislation to rectify the concerns laid out in this report.”
The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report was a result of an amendment put forth by Brownley in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. Brownley’s amendment directed 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 has heard directly from female servicemembers and veterans about the high cost of women’s uniforms and the disparities in out-of-pocket costs for female 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.
Key Report Findings:
- In all the services, enlisted servicewomen were reimbursed at a rate of approximately 8 percentage points lower than enlisted servicemen.
- The report highlights that the discrepancy in uniform cost is at odds with the DOD’s equity principle of equal pay for equal work – because women are paying more for uniforms and not receiving a sufficient uniform allowance, servicewomen are being paid less.
- Military officials said that uniform items cost more for women because there are fewer women in the service – but the services also have the ability to subsidize and defray that cost, rather than imposing it on the servicemembers.
- DOD has historically not collected uniform data for female officers because all officers pay out-of-pocket. In the last 10 years, the military services have made 18 changes that disproportionately increased out-of-pocket costs for female officers.
- While all the services have made changes in the last decade that require mandatory purchase of new uniforms, the Navy and Marine Corps have made changes that only impact women.
- The Marine Corps found it could save $600,000 by having gender-neutral uniforms – a cost that was transferred to the women who had to go out and buy those uniform items out of pocket.
- Over a 20-year career, an enlisted female Marine will pay nearly 10x out of pocket what male Marines pay out of pocket. In the Army, female enlisted soldiers will pay nearly $4000 more – double – what enlisted men pay out of pocket. In the Air Force, over 20 years, enlisted women will pay $1,627 out of pocket, where enlisted men will have a surplus of approximately $2000. In the Navy, women pay approximately three times what men pay over a 20 year career.
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military departments, develops consistent criteria for determining which uniform or clothing items are considered uniquely military across the services, in part to reduce differences in out-of-pocket costs incurred by enlisted service members across the services and by gender within a service.
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in conjunction with the Secretaries of the military departments, periodically reviews the items included in the services’ calculation of standard cash clothing replacement allowances for enlisted service members to ensure consistency and address out-of-pocket cost differences, as appropriate, across the services and by gender within a service.
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the military services submit their respective plans for changing uniform items, including the estimated costs associated with the change, to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness for review.
- The Secretary of Defense should ensure the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness reviews 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 recommend any adjustments to ensure equity, as appropriate.
Read the full report, here.
Issues: 117th Congress, Defense, Women Veterans Task Force