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Military TDY: Temporary Duty Assignment Explained

military tdy

The U.S. Armed Forces issue different types of military travel orders to personnel.

Your military travel orders pertain to changes in your duty location and the duration, and may also impact your military pay.

Military TDY (Temporary Duty) is one common type of military travel order .

Get all your questions answered about Temporary Duty (TDY) status and what you can expect to experience with this type of order.

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Table of Contents

What is TDY?

temporary duty assignment

The U.S. Military has three primary types of military travel orders:

  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS)
  • Temporary Duty (TDY)
  • Deployments Orders

It is important to keep in mind that the three types of military assignment orders are not the same and each has its own characteristics.

Your military orders may affect how long you serve at the post, the specific location, and special duty pay.

Temporary Duty (TDY) is defined by the Department of Defense as:

Duty at one or more locations, away from the permanent duty station (PDS), under an order, providing for further assignment or pending further assignment, to return to the old PDS or to proceed to a new PDS.

Military branches under the U.S. Armed Forces have different references for Military TDY, like TAD (temporary additional duty) or TCS (temporary change of station).

However, they all mean basically the same thing that your military orders are temporary.

The primary difference between Military TDY and other orders is that it grants authorization for a service member to perform work away from the permanent duty station.

The Department of Defense requires the label Military TDY (or one of its variants) to approve travel pay, per diem, and coverage of other expenses to assist the soldier.

Since the assignment is temporary, the service member can expect a shorter stay than a permanent station assignment, however, the length of the orders may vary.

The individual details of TDY orders are fleshed out with each commitment.

The specifics of your Military TDY outline expected duration, amount of travel pay, coverage of expenses, housing and food support, transportation, and other forms of assistance.

How long is a TDY?

Military TDY is temporary for military orders, so the length is generally not longer than 180 days.

Temporary duty orders may range anywhere from a few days to a half year.

Long-term TDY is any orders which specify longer than 30 days.

TDY per diem rates depend on the location you have orders for. It will also include reimbursement for lodging, meals, and incidentals. 

Use this calculator to determine how much you can expect to receive. 

Military TDY is a stark contrast from Permanent Duty Assignments and Deployments, which have commitments of several months or years.

The Department of Defense authorizes TDY through Joint Travel Regulations.

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Is TDY considered a deployment?

tcs order

Technically there is a difference between a temporary duty assignment (TDY) and Deployment, even though they are both military orders.

Deployments are similar to military TDY, except that the service member is assigned to a specific operation.

Therefore, deployments usually reference combat operations that take place overseas.

When most civilians think of military orders, they commonly associate everything with being deployed, though that’s not always the case based on the actual military definition.

Deployment refers to assigning military personnel from a home station to somewhere outside the continental United States.

Mobilizations are also classified as deployments under the Department of Defense guidelines.

How does a TDY differ from a deployment?

The biggest difference between deployments and temporary duty assignments is the length of the orders.

Military TDY is short-term, with even longer stints requiring less than a half year of commitment.

On the other hand, deployments are typically longer and involve assignments outside the United States.

Additionally, deployments involve assignments to specific operations and usually in combat situations.

However, both types of military orders have similarities.

For example, military personnel must leave their home station for a different location under each type of order.

Military TDY is not always as serious as deployments.

For instance, a temporary duty assignment could mean nothing more than attending school, conferences, or a military-sponsored event.

Or it could pertain to a regular part of military duty where frequent travel is mandatory and the service member hopes to receive some form of compensation for their travel exs.

There are cases where military personnel earn TDY status even when working in the same geographic area as the home base to justify lodging and meal expenses associated with the duty.

Soldiers also rely on military TDY for house hunting and other searches when considering a new permanent change of station or out-processing from military service.

Can I go with my husband/wife on a TDY?

tdy army

One of the many perks of temporary duty assignments is that you can occasionally bring along the family.

The same is not true of deployments where it would put your spouse or other family members in danger.

If given the chance to bring along a spouse for your temporary duty assignment, you should welcome the opportunity, but keep in mind that pier diem rates are only calculated for the service member.

Military personnel often spend months away from family and friends, so having a unique opportunity like this to spend with a loved one is rare and special.

MilitaryShoppers.com put together a great resource on the topic.

It explains the pros and cons of tagging along with a significant other while he or she is on TDY.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that while you can live with your spouse while on temporary duty assignment, his or her time is still limited and it might drain your budget quickly.

Other than that, it’s an enticing opportunity to catch up after potentially months of separation.

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Will I get paid extra during a TDY?

Despite having to leave your home station, there is nothing more rewarding than a little extra pay in freedom.

It is exactly what temporary duty assignments provide to service members.

In fact, the reason that military personnel may request or seek TDY is the opportunity to put more in their wallet.

Military TDY usually grants per diem pay, which helps cover lodging, meals, and incidental expenses.

You get a set per diem pay regardless of what you actually spend each day on daily expenses.

As a result, if you budget accordingly, you can earn extra cash by pocketing whatever per diem you don’t spend on daily living expenses.

What kind of accommodations can I expect during a TDY?

deployment orders

The accommodations of temporary duty assignments are nothing to brag about yet offer incentives that most military personnel don’t get to enjoy.

For example, the potential opportunity to take your significant other along with you when TDY is a major advantage for some.

Military personnel may get the opportunity to stay at furnished apartments or long-term stay hotels.

Long-term stays help save you money on your per diem since you can cook your own meals as opposed to dining out all of the time.

Furnished apartments may also include laundry and other housing services to save even more money.

Service members on TDY may also request a cash advance of 60-80% of the total value.

It helps cover move-in costs as opposed to spending out of their own pocket.

Some military organizations deem anything over 30 consecutive calendar days. 

For this reason, it allows partial reimbursement of living expenses prior to concluding the assignment.

Military TDY, or temporary duty assignments, refer to relatively short-term military travel orders away from a home station.

Temporary duty assignments range from a couple of days to under six months.

Military TDY is a good thing for soldiers despite the travel arrangements, as it helps cover lodging, food, and transportation regarding the orders.

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Long-term TDY Rates to Change, Official Says

You have accessed part of a historical collection on defense.gov. Some of the information contained within may be outdated and links may not function. Please contact the DOD Webmaster with any questions.

New long-term temporary duty per diem rules that go into effect Nov. 1 will save the Defense Department about $22 million annually, the director of the Defense Travel Management Office said recently.

Long-term TDY is considered to be any temporary duty longer than 30 days. “So, for travel from 31 to 180 days, you will receive a flat-rate per diem of 75 percent. For travel greater than 180 days, you will receive a flat-rate per diem for 55 percent,” Harvey Johnson explained in a DoD News interview.

Johnson said the changes are meant to give long-term TDY travelers an incentive to seek out extended-stay lodgings, which generally are less expensive. Before this change, the Joint Travel Regulations encouraged travelers on extended TDY to seek out this type of lodging, but there wasn’t a requirement or incentive to do so.

Changes apply to all three parts of per diem

The reduced per diem rates apply to all three parts of the per diem -- lodging, meals and incidentals -- he noted, and apply equally to civilian and military personnel.

Travelers who are authorized the flat-rate per diem no longer have to submit a lodging receipt, but before they’re reimbursed, a receipt may be needed to validate that lodging costs were incurred. Staying anywhere for free or buying a home at the TDY location will make a traveler ineligible for the flat-rate per diem payment.

“Several other federal civilian agencies already implement similar policies. … Some are even more restrictive than ours,” Johnson said. The changes are simply meant to recognize that long-term stays are different from short-term TDYs, he noted.

Many of the conveniences available at extended-stay hotels can save money for travelers, and in turn, for DoD, Johnson said.

“They offer the kitchenettes, the sink, the refrigerator -- recognizing that people aren't eating out at an expensive restaurant every day, three meals a day,” he explained. “And I believe that's vital in this environment of sequestration and other external factors that have brought this on. So, we've got to make sure that people are traveling smarter and more [efficiently].”

Options if additional costs arise

Johnson said travelers still will have options if they are unable to find extended-stay lodging within a reasonable distance of their duty location, or if additional costs arise, such as a rental car. “You can work with your approving official to do actual-expense authorizations, which allows you to go above the flat-rate per diem to 100 percent, if needed,” he said.

And at no time should travelers end up paying out-of-pocket for authorized TDY expenses, Johnson said. “The intent is to do no harm. The intent is to ensure that we're finding affordable travel solutions.”

While acknowledging that these changes may feel like a pay cut to some travelers, Johnson said it’s important to recognize that per diem payments aren’t meant to serve as an extra pay.

“It's not a hardship pay, it's not a supplemental pay; it's a travel allowance,” he said. “And a travel allowance is designed to reimburse travelers for expenses incurred. … We are looking to fairly reimburse travelers for actual expenses incurred. If that means that it's over the flat per diem rate, then we will reimburse up to whatever it was that they spent.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)  

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