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Marine Corps ends male-only underwear allowance after gov’t watchdog report

A tailor measures a new Marine with Golf Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Gonzalez/Released)
March 04, 2021

The U.S. Marine Corps ended a cash allowance fund last week that was used to reimburse male Marines for the cost of their underwear.

The decision was noted in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week detailing discrepancies between how the military reimburses uniform costs for males and females in the ranks.

“Beginning in fiscal year 2021, enlisted males will no longer receive an
annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for
underwear, according to the officials,” the GAO report states. “Currently, males receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for their underwear, but females do not.”

Concerns about the uniform allowance discrepancies have been growing for years. In 2019, Congress ordered the GAO to begin investigating the extent of those discrepancies, colloquially referred to as the “pink tax.”

The GAO report found numerous differences between uniform requirements and reimbursements for male and female service members. While male enlisted Marines received the annualized underwear allowance, female Marines received no similar allowance. The Marines considered underwear a “personal” item while only reimbursing male enlisted Marines.

Separately, female Marines have been required to purchase dress pumps as a “uniform” item, and receive a one-time $50 allowance to purchase their pumps, but there is currently no annualized allowance to replace them. Marine Corps officials described the issue as an oversight and the GAO report states “the Marine Corps plans to fix this to ensure female enlisted service members receive an annualized standard cash clothing allowance for dress pumps.”

The GAO report found discrepancies across all branches of the military, often leading to wide differences between the out-of-pocket costs male and female service members incur. Some female service members in the U.S. Army had to pay more than $8,000 in out-of-pocket costs for various uniform items, while male service members often had much lower out-of-pocket costs. Some male service members in the U.S. Air Force actually had allowance overages they could keep.

The GAO report lays out four recommendations for the Department of Defense to take to address the uniform reimbursement discrepancies. First, the DoD should “reduce differences in out-of-pocket costs incurred by
enlisted service members across the services and by gender.” Second, the DoD should periodically review the required uniform items “to ensure consistency and address out-of-pocket cost differences.” Third, the military services should include estimated uniform costs when considering changes to their uniforms and the DoD should review those plans, as the fourth recommendation, “to determine any potential out-of-pocket cost differences
among the services or among genders.”