From the American Homefront Project:
The USO, the iconic support organization for service members and their families, has quietly been closing dozens of airport lounges and on-base hospitality centers. But it’s also opening others, including some in the military’s most remote locations.
The 81-year-old organization — famous for its lounges, care packages, and celebrity entertainment tours — is facing modern challenges.
Its budget is off several million dollars from pre-pandemic highs, USO leaders said, partly because the number of Americans and potential donors with ties to the military has been shrinking.
The organization has also been adjusting to shifts in where troops are deployed and what they need the digital age. This year, it has closed 32 of its centers where service members can rest, grab a cold soda, play games and watch TV. It expects to shut about eight more by January.
USO Chief Operating Officer Alan Reyes said those that are closing have seen less use. Most are at smaller domestic airports and sites where troops are processed before moving to boot camp for initial training.
But he said the USO also has opened 28 new centers this year, including several in places where troops’ stress is especially high or they’re unusually isolated.
The changes are part of a long-range strategic plan, he said.
“We do pride ourselves with the fact that we have as a global organization the opportunity to reach millions and millions of service members and families,” he said. “But we want to make sure that we are reaching those that need us the most, and oftentimes, they are in more remote locations.”
Many of the new centers are in places like Eastern Europe, where troops began deploying early this year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.