FORT LEE, Va. (March 1, 2012) -- The reinstatement of an Army policy governing how its temporary duty students are paid for lodging and meals while attending the Army Logistics University and other advanced military courses here was the subject of a special public meeting Monday night in the multi-purpose room at the ALU.

About 80 representatives of hotels and apartment complexes in the local area, as well as numerous community leaders, attended the briefing that was conducted by Col. Rodney D. Edge, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Lee commander. The topic of discussion was the installation's Feb. 1 reinstatement of the Institutional Training Directed Lodging and Meal Policy.

Representatives from the Department of Army, the Army Chief of Staff for Installation Management and the garrison answered questions about the standards required for the Lodging Success Program and the contracting process involved, and they provided information on how apartment and hotel owners can list their services on the Department of Defense Automated Housing Referral Network.

Under ITDLMP, actual lodging costs are paid through a centralized billing program rather than the Army paying a usually higher per diem amount to Soldiers who, in turn, had to file reimbursement claims and repay the debts accumulated on government credit cards. It also specifies where Soldiers can be billeted -- either Army lodging on post or, if those facilities are booked to capacity, in one of the contracted Lodging Success Program hotels near the post.

"We actually launched the centralized billing program (under another name) here in 2002, and it continued through 2008," the garrison commander explained. "The Army gave us the OK to suspend the requirement in August 2009 to minimize shortfalls in infrastructure and services due to government-mandated Base Realignment and Closure changes. Consequently, students were receiving a per diem allowance for lodging and meals up until the recent reinstatement of the policy. While many stayed in Army lodging or LSP hotels, quite a few did not. This increased costs significantly, which is the primary factor that led to the reinstatement of ITDLMP."

In addition to being more cost effective, the reinstated lodging and meal policy means students don't have to worry about the logistics of finding and paying for lodging and can focus on why they are on post: for training.

"It improves class integrity as well," Edge noted. "We now have the requirement to lodge students in the same facility, which is a huge benefit when you consider command and control, the ability to organize study groups and so on. In both leadership and logistical terms, it's the right solution for an Army that has to operate in today's environment of constrained resources."

Among the specific ITDLMP benefits Edge made note of during Monday's meeting were the following: an estimated monthly cost savings of approximately $500,000; the ability to monitor and resolve lodging issues promptly for those in LSP hotels; and predictability for lodging facilities that can count on guaranteed payment through contractual agreements.

The new lodging and meal policy affects all classes that reported on or after Feb. 1, Edge reiterated. Army students who reported before the reinstatement date will be allowed to retain their current billeting arrangements and will receive per diem payments as before. Furthermore, the change in policy does not affect government civilians, international students, members of other U.S. service branches or non-TDY Army students, such as those on permanent change of station moves.

The garrison command emphasized the post's commitment to keeping the lines of communication open and praised the community for its support and partnership.

"If big Army makes a change in the LSP policy, we will not keep it a secret," Edge said. "Fort Lee values its partnership with the local community and its business owners, so the dialogue will continue."