Government Executive first reported the changes in an article late last week.
Opposition to the new policy, which took effect Saturday, has come from both parties in Congress. Last month, 28 lawmakers sent a bipartisan letter to the Pentagon warning that the changes could damage morale and place an extra burden on government travelers.
“The department should not put its workers in a position where they are required to travel for work but have to pay out of pocket for basic necessities,” the lawmakers wrote.
Unions have also complained about the changes. Thirteen labor groups sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee last month calling on lawmakers to block the rate reductions.
Matthew Biggs, legislative and political director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said the new rates were meant to provide an incentive for travelers to save money for the government.
“The DOD has overstepped in attempting to achieve savings by requiring their workers to personally pay for decent lodging, meals and even for such things as laundry,” Biggs said in a statement last month. “This is misguided and unfair to the workforce.”
Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department wanted to reduce trip costs ‘without harming the traveler or the mission.” He added that the change is intended to provide employees and troops with “flexibility to make cost-effective travel choices.”
The Pentagon has estimated that the rate changes will save about $22 million per year. Other federal agencies, including the departments of agriculture, health and human services, interior and veterans affairs, have also reduced their reimbursement rates.