In the past, if a married soldier decided not to relocate their family during an assignment, they could continue to draw a basic housing allowance (BAH). The married soldier would do this to pay for housing for their dependents while they lived in the barracks if sufficient space was available. This concept was known as being a "geographic bachelor." The program refers to those military members who choose to live separately from their family during a permanent change of station (PCS) and not as a result of orders.
In the past, when a service member lived away from their family as a geographical bachelor they were allowed to live in the new duty station's barracks. However, with the announcement, all five branches put an end to the program for stateside installations and those installations in Alaska and Hawaii. Married soldiers who are voluntarily separated from their families will no longer be authorized space in Army barracks. In some rare cases, if a base has excess barrack housing available they may be occupied by the married member for a monthly fee.
The policy is a continued effort to provide quality housing—in the form of barracks lodging—for single soldiers. It is also hoped that the change will create a better tool in matching up the programming and requirements for unaccompanied personnel housing. Also, the policy does not apply to overseas locations.
Still the Existence of Geographic Bachelors
Soldiers entitled to basic allowance for housing (BAH) at the “with dependent” rate are usually paid that benefit based on the location of their assigned duty station. If a service member is assigned to a location with a lower BAH then they were previously receiving they will receive the lower allotment.
Families may choose to live apart for many reasons. Perhaps the children are attending a school or there is an elderly family member who the non-service spouse must continue to care for. At times, there may be a situation where the member's family cannot move with them due to the medical needs of the spouse of a dependent child. In these special circumstances, the member may apply for approval of geographic bachelor status but the approval of this request is based on availability and is rare.
It is also important to understand that the voluntary separation of the family will not immediately receive the payment of a family separation allowance (FSA). These funds are paid only in cases where the military need forces the separation.
Army's Holistic Barracks Strategy
This change came at a time when the Army was making numerous changes in the way it houses single soldiers via the Holistic Barracks Strategy approved by the secretary of the Army.
The housing change for geographic bachelors supported the strategy initiative ensuring housing entitlements for single soldiers could be met and all permanent unaccompanied personnel housing facility categories matched the identified permanent party housing requirements.
The Army authorized single staff sergeants to live off post and provided the Installation Management Agency with $250 million to repair the Army’s most deficient barracks under the Barracks Improvement Program.
Geographical bachelors in all rank categories transitioned to local community housing through attrition whether caused by permanent change of station orders, renovations being made through BIP, deployment, or for the convenience of the government as determined by the local command.
The local on-post Housing Services Office or the Community Housing Relocation and Referral Services assisted soldiers in securing affordable and safe off-post properties whether they chose to rent or purchase homes.
This information was current as of January 2019.