No changes would be made to per diem rate policies at the Defense Department under a DoD budget bill (HR-2810) that has emerged from a House-Senate conference.

The House version had favored repeal of a 2014 policy change in which DoD employees on extended assignments receive a reduced per diem rate. Under the policy, for long-term temporary duty of 31 to 180 days, the authorized rate is 75 percent of the locality rate (lodging plus meals & incidental expenses) payable for each full day of temporary duty at that location; for TDY greater than 180 days, it is 55 percent. In making the change, DoD said that for assignments of 31 days or more, savings can be achieved by staying in extended-stay type lodgings.

Language in the defense budget for the current fiscal year allows the military services to make exceptions if the reduced rate “is not sufficient under the circumstances.” That was a compromise to a similar request for repeal made last year by opponents of the lower rate, who argue that it dissuades employees from taking temporary assignments for long-term projects such as ship overhauls.

The conferees on the bill said that last year’s law addressed that concern by granting the flexibility and that there is a “lack of evidence that shows the current system is causing financial hardship on military and civilian employees on long term TDY assignment, or is otherwise impacting volunteerism among civilians for critical missions.”

Several other agencies also pay lower rates for long-term assignments; details of those policies vary.