April 14th, 2021 by Alex Gault

A recent Government Accountability Office report found that women in the military have to spend much more of their own money on their uniforms than men do, and Rep. Elise M. Stefanik wants to do something about it.

According to a GAO report released in February, both enlisted women and female officers across the four main service branches have to pay significantly more for uniform items excluded from their annual clothing allowances than men typically do. The difference can sometimes be thousands of dollars more for women than men in the same military service.

The Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, Rep. Karen “Jackie” Spier, D-Calif., and Rep. Julia A. Brownley, D-Calif, would address the disparity by ordering the secretaries of each military service branch to take actions that specifically reduce the difference in costs.

According to the GAO report, women pay between two and 10 times as much money out of their own pockets on their uniforms over the course of their careers in the military, accounting for about $80 million per year.

In the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, women have more uniform items required of them that they cannot pay for out of their clothing allowances, and in the Army, women’s excluded items cost nearly $250 more per year than men’s do.

According to the GAO, part of the problem is that many uniform items such as underwear, bras, undershirts, socks and stockings cannot be purchased with the annual clothing allowance given to each service member — the military provides a one-time-only allowance to buy these items for both genders, but women’s items tend to cost more than the men’s equivalent.

The issue varies by service branch as well. In the Marine Corps, men receive annual cash allowances to replace their underwear, but women do not. Additionally, women are required to have specific handbags for the Army, dress pumps for the Air Force and Marine Corps, and specific, more expensive swimsuits for the Navy.

The GAO report noted that women’s uniform items are often tailored as well, and therefore cost more than the men’s equivalents.

The GAO found that out of all four main service branches, only men in the Air Force were able to keep uniform replacement costs under their allowances. Women in the Air Force, and both men and women in all other branches, all had to pay at least $70 more than their allowances after five years. Women routinely had to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more out-of-pocket for their uniforms than the men in the same service branches.

In a statement, Rep. Stefanik said the Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act is a direct, bipartisan solution to the disparity in men’s and women’s uniform costs.

“The Equal Pay for Servicewomen Act is a straight-forward solution to address a tremendous gender-related inequity in the United States military,” Rep. Stefanik said in a statement. “America’s selfless military women deserve equal consideration in all aspects of their service, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bipartisan bill.”

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