SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Some Marine Corps noncommissioned officers will no longer be allowed to live off-base, instead being forced into the barracks, as part of a servicewide effort to maximize existing available housing.

The effort, announced in a late July policy message, put an immediate freeze on the approval of pending and future requests for Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for Marines E-5 and below without dependents if their installation has adequate housing, according to the administrative directive, 429/11.

Marines E-5 below who are already living off base will continue to receive BAH until they transfer to a new duty station, the policy states.

BAH is paid to only to servicemembers assigned to stateside units. Troops living overseas who live off base are paid an Overseas Housing Allowance.

The move brings stateside Marines in line with restrictions already being observed at some bases overseas, officials said.

“This is going to have a relatively low impact for Marines here in Okinawa,” said 1st Lt. Lindsay Pirek, a spokeswoman for the III Marine Expeditionary Unit on Okinawa. “All single NCOs live in the barracks unless they’re married.”

That policy — handed down in 2008 for Marines on Okinawa and mainland Japan — goes one step further than the new stateside order and extends to E-6s and below, Pirek said.

The stateside housing allowance is set according to rank and geographical region, and includes monies for utilities and rental insurance. A corporal living near Camp Pendleton receives $1,395 per month while a sergeant receives $1,623, according to the Defense Department Travel Management Office.

Unlike overseas, where troops receive an Overseas Housing Allowance equal to their rent payment, servicemembers in the States can pocket any BAH money not spent on rent.

Officials told the Marine Corps Times the new policy could save taxpayers about $35 million per year.

“As good stewards of the nation’s resources, we must take full advantage of this investment and ensure the barracks are well utilized and occupied to the greatest extent practical,” the policy states.

The policy extends to all stateside Marines unless their installation’s occupancy is at least 95 percent capacity. Barracks available nearby, albeit outside of one’s unit, are to also be considered, according to the policy.

Installation commanders have the authority to allot BAH in case an installation is at capacity and to also approve exceptions due to hardship.

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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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