Army Opens Military-Only Resort in Virginia Beach

The Army has opened a resort in Virginia Beach to go along with similar facilities in Orland, Honolulu, South Korea, and Germany.

The United States military is adding Virginia’s oceanfront to such destinations as Hawaii and Germany where servicemembers and their families can get some affordable rest and relaxation. The Armed Forces Recreation Center in Virginia Beach joins other locations in Orlando, Florida, Germany, Hawaii and South Korea that have been serving military families and civilians who work for the U.S. Department of Defense since 1946.


Each year, about 750,000 people visit the resorts, officials said. The resorts are open to active-duty and retired military, current and retired Department of Defense civilians, reservists, delayed entry recruits and family members. Each of the resorts features gourmet restaurants, guest services, pool and fitness centers.

The rationale for a taxpayer-sponsored vacation resort for government employees in the United States eludes me. I can understand having a place where soldiers serving overseas can get away and be among English speakers, although, frankly, doing that takes away most of the personal benefit of serving abroad. But, surely, there are enough vacation spots in the United States where these people could go already.

Not only is this an expensive boon at taxpayer expense, but it takes money away from local businesses who might otherwise attract these people. Furthermore, isolating American soldiers serving domestically from contact with the society at large is a bad idea on many fronts.

Gorman explains that, “The reason for operating these places was for rest and recuperation for war-weary soldiers and that really continues to be the focus today.” Yet, these resorts are not limited to war-weary vets. Why are retirees eligible? DoD civilians? Delayed entry recruits who should be incredibly well rested, not having done anything yet?

UPDATE: A commenter reminds me that MWR activities are not taxpayer-funded. From the ArmyMWR site:

Revenues from AFRCs are continually reinvested to maintain and improve the physical plant while providing the greatest possible value for AFRC guests. Providing high-quality, affordable resort-style facilities at the AFRCs is commensurate with the Chief of Staff, Army’s philosophy that soldiers are entitled to the same quality of life as the citizens they are pledged to defend. The Army continues to promote strong family values by providing the AFRCs; a reflection of our strong commitment to improved quality of life. AFRC room rates are affordable and based on rank, pay grade, duty status, room size, and/or room location.

I still remain dubious of the enterprise but at least the objection that the taxpayers are funding luxury vacations for government bureaucrats is obviated.

The communistic approach of subsidizing lower paid employees at the expense of those higher in rank/grade is puzzling but fairly common for MWR activities. Day care centers and similar activities on bases typically operate that way, too.

The idea that “soldiers are entitled to the same quality of life as the citizens they are pledged to defend” sounds great, although it’s rather open ended. Are 19-year-old privates “entitled” to the same quality of life as middle aged CEOs? Or only their high school educated civilian counterparts? And why is a GS-5 civilian employed by the Army as file clerk entitled to cheap recreation while one working for, say, the Department of Homeland security is not?

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rick says:

    Its an MWR facility. It gets NO taxpayer money and is totally self sufficient. The profits from places like this then subsidize other less profitable (but required by law to be self sufficient) activities and facilities for troops. Do your homework

  2. D.A. Ridgely says:

    Well, no, that isn’t quite correct. See the linked Army memorandum detailing policy for use of appropriated funds for certain MWR programs and facilities. There is a whole laundry list of NAFs for which appropriated funds may be expended. Moreover, the real (in this case beachfront) property, isn’t acquired with nonappropriated funds, it’s public property being used as a restricted recreational facility for certain classes of federal personnel. It is, indeed, a tax dollar (appropriated fund) subsidized creation, whether directly or indirectly.

  3. SoloD says:

    It may not be on the taxpayer’s dime, but it does help to create an even bigger divide between the military and the civilian population.

    Apropos of conversations regarding a military coup a little while ago, the biggest danger would be if the military population and civilian population stopped interacting. This could lead to a sharp breach between the military culture and civilian cultures, which already exists to some extent.

    We are certainly no where a complete divide between the cultures, but it is a small step in that way and another step away from the universal draft, where most civilians (males) were exposed to the military culture and the military exposed to civilian culture.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    I have only seen the Orlando facility. The best way I can describe it is making Disney World affordable on an enlisted man’s salary.

    Consider this, would you feel better about this non-taxpayer activity if you knew it helped retention. If a soldier felt he could make more money in the private sector (often the case) and thus be able to afford to take his kids to Disney World, would that make you feel better?

  5. LJD says:

    Apropos of conversations regarding a military coup a little while ago, the biggest danger would be if the military population and civilian population stopped interacting. This could lead to a sharp breach between the military culture and civilian cultures, which already exists to some extent.

    LOL That’s great stuff you’re smokin’

  6. spencer says:

    Military pay is consistently less then comparable civilian pay, although the gap is not as wide as it use to be. Moreover, military personnel are often required to serve in isolated and hardship post. One of the ways the military has acted to offset these disadvantages is through the provision of subsidized housing, PX and commissary privileges, etc.. This is just another example of this type of policy at work.

    I’m amused that you call it communistic. The US military is the closest thing to a communist society that ever existed. Everyone works for the government and the means of production are owned by the government. Pay is very much based on the “to each according to their needs” philosophy.
    A single junior officer or NCO gets a room in BOQ or the barracks. If married the same individual gets a one bedroom apt, or an allowance to cover the same. If they have children they get quarters that allow no more than two children per bedroom. I remember in Germany as a kid in the 1950s when a large family would move on base the Army would cut a door between two apartments so the family could have enough bedrooms. This winter I had a great Sunday morning brunch as one of the Army hotels in Honolulu. The cost of the brunch depended on your rank. This has always been military policy.

    It is a way to make the tax payer dollar go farther while offsetting some of the low pay the military earn.