The Department of Defense has released the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates. Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase an average of 3.4 percent when the new rates take effect on January 1, 2016. An estimated $21 billion will be paid to approximately one million Service members. On average, Basic Allowance for Housing rates will increase approximately $54 per month.

Continuing to slow the growth in compensation costs, the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing Program expands the member cost-sharing element (out-of-pocket expense). Based on the authority provided in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the cost-sharing element was increased to two percent. The cost-sharing amounts incorporated in the 2016 Basic Allowance for Housing rates vary by grade and dependency status and range from $24 to $57 monthly. This means for 2016, a typical member will need to absorb two percent of the national average housing cost by pay grade. This rate computation change slows the growth of certain military pay and benefits in a fair, responsible, and sustainable way. Even with these nominal changes, the overall military pay and benefits package remains robust and healthy. 

DALLAS - Staying true to its mission of bringing troops a slice of home wherever they may serve, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service will team with The Walt Disney Studios to bring "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" to deployment locations in the Middle East.

Troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates will be able to see the highly anticipated film during its initial run, continuing the Exchange's longstanding policy of bringing first-run movies to troops deployed overseas.

The creator of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has teamed up with a major network for a home renovation competition show that gives contestants the chance to win a dream home for someone they love. This series is all about rewarding a hero with the ultimate life-changing surprise. Contestants are vying not only to win a dream home for their hero, but the last contestant standing will take home the grand prize of $100,000.

To maintain the surprise, the hero cannot know that the contestant is playing on their behalf. Contestants cannot play on behalf of their spouse or domestic partner.

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON December 4, 2015 - Starting in January 2016, TRICARE beneficiaries with a diagnosis and referral will be eligible for surgical treatment of a hip condition called femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI, according to a TRICARE news release issued today.

The FAI surgery is the first treatment to be evaluated and approved under the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act's provisional coverage program, which allows TRICARE to provide coverage for emerging treatments and technologies, the release said. 

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON December 3, 2015 —

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced today that beginning in January 2016, all military occupations and positions will be open to women, without exception.

For the first time in U.S. military history, as long as they qualify and meet specific standards, the secretary said women will be able to contribute to the Defense Department mission with no barriers at all in their way.

“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat," Carter added. "They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers, and everything else that was previously open only to men."

By Karen Parrish DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON December 2, 2015 - As the year turns toward deck-the-halls season, the first lady welcomed military families to what she has called "America's house" for the first peek at 2015 holiday decorations and treat preparation.

Michelle Obama hosted the families, including a number of excited children, at the White House today, where staff members and volunteers have been crafting the annual holiday transformation of the 132-room mansion. 

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON December 2, 2015 -

A concerted national effort to hire veterans, coupled with their sought-after essential skills training, likely had an effect on making October's veteran unemployment rate the lowest since April 2008, a Defense Department official said Nov. 30. 

Susan S. Kelly, who leads DoD's Transition to Veterans Program Office, spoke to DoD News about the October Bureau of Labor Statistics Report published by the Labor Department, which indicated that veteran unemployment has been lower than the rate of nonveteran unemployment for 23 consecutive weeks. In October, the veteran unemployment rate stood at just 3.9 percent, while nonveteran unemployment was 5.4 percent.

From a North American Aerospace Defense Command News Release

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. December 1, 2015 - The North American Aerospace Defense Command is celebrating the 60th anniversary of tracking Santa's Yuletide journey.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website, which launched today, features Santa's North Pole Village, which includes a holiday countdown, games, activities, and more.