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Military Childcare Costs Lower in 2024

Childcare is one of the biggest issues facing military families in an age where inflation, higher interest rates, and increasing payments make it hard to stay on budget. A critical resource for military families? On-base care at Child Development Centers (CDCs) at stateside and overseas military bases.

The fee structure for CDC care is based on income, but for junior enlisted troops in their first enlistment, the fees can still be challenging, especially for those assigned to high-cost areas like Washington D.C., California, or New York.

In 2024, the Defense Department is making it more affordable for junior enlisted troops to afford that care.

On-Base Child Care

Due to the unique nature of military work, on-base and on-post care is crucial. Most military bases have at least one Child Development Center, typically owned by Morale Welfare and Recreation, paid for by the Army Air Force Exchange Service or AAFES.

CDCs are regulated and supervised childcare facilities operating on schedules accommodating military duty. The federal government establishes fees for care at CDCs based on household income (see below) but in 2024 that fee structure is altered to include more families at lower price points.

Related: Military Spouse Benefits 101

An Executive Order

Congress didn’t pass the measure that resulted in lower military childcare costs at CDCs in the new year. Instead, this was mandated by the Presidential executive order. The DoD official site notes Executive Order 14095, “Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers,” was signed into law April 18, 2023.

The order “directs the DOD to improve the affordability of child care on military installations.”

Military Child Care Expenses Decrease In 2024

The DoD has announced changes to the Child Development Center program to lower costs. Those changes include modifying the fee structure for services, which is traditionally based on total household income. Those income calculations include any money from spouse employment.

Changing the income caps is one way to help lower costs for military families, and that’s exactly what the DoD has done for 2024.

Some families may realize savings as high as 40%, at least how some add up the numbers (including Military.com.)

According to Defense.gov, several changes to the CDC program include “a reduction in the number of fee categories from fourteen to eleven, modification of the Total Family Income categories,” plus increases in the Total Family Income limits for assigning CDC fees.

The changes offer “a more equitable division of fees based on total family income.”

There are other reforms:

  • Increased “fee assistance provider” rate cap for community-based and military-certified family child care providers to $1,800 per child per month.
  • More eligibility for Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (DCFSAs).
  • Service members may fund DCFSAs up to $5,000 per household per year.
  • Service members who qualify for DoD child care fee assistance can also use a DCFSA.

The biggest savings seem to be for those in the lowest categories. More families will be eligible for lower payments due to the changes. Contact your nearest Child Development Center or School-Age Care facility to learn when these changes apply to you where applicable and how to sign up.

Related: Military Spouse Benefits 101

About the author


Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.