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December 05, 2019

ICYMI: Inhofe, Senate Armed Services Committee Press Service Secretaries, Chiefs on Privatized Military Housing Crisis

At Hearing on Tuesday, Armed Services Committee Members Demand Accountability, Support for Military Family Members

 

The Washington Times

December 3, 2019

‘Time for talk is over’: Senators rip military brass over substandard housing

By: Mike Glenn

For more than two hours, senators grilled the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, along with the senior uniformed members of each military service, who appeared before the Armed Services committee alongside Ms. Field.

Lawmakers from both parties called on Pentagon officials to crack down on landlords who aren’t providing military members with safe and high-quality homes and pointed to holes in the Defense Department’s oversight of the privatized housing system.

“The time for talk is over,” said Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and the committee’s chairman. He asserted that lawmakers continue to get reports from service members based across the country about the squalor they are forced to live in and the landlords who don’t seem to care.

If the network of more than a dozen private companies hired by the Pentagon to manage upkeep of base housing “cannot get the job done, you owe it to our military families to find a company who will,” Mr. Inhofe told the service chiefs.

Mr. Inhofe specifically called out Balfour Beatty Communities, which manages military housing at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, as one of the worst offenders.

“Why is it that they’re still there?” he asked.

 

Reuters

December 3, 2019

U.S. senators call for banning, prosecuting ‘slumlords’ of military housing

By: M.B. Pell

U.S. senators on Tuesday demanded the Defense Department crack down on private landlords who provide substandard housing at military bases with criminal prosecutions or contract cancellations, citing Reuters reports of slum-like living conditions and falsified accounting.

Senators pressed the secretaries to do more to hold accountable military leaders and landlords.

Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett why she couldn’t “pull the plug” on Balfour Beatty Communities, one of the military’s largest landlords.

 

Military Times

December 3, 2019

Service chiefs grilled over efforts to fix mold, vermin and other military housing woes

Senators peppered service officials for more than two hours Tuesday with questions about ongoing problems with privatized family housing.

Meanwhile, government auditors issued a report saying DoD’s measures of tenant satisfaction are fundamentally flawed, leading to financial rewards to housing companies that may have been undeserved.

The latest hearing came 10 months after the first hearings where family members testified about the hazards that threatened their health and safety, and their frustrations in getting their landlord to fix the problems—and no help from their military officials on base.

But things haven’t changed much in the interim, said the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We continue to hear regularly from families across the country about questionable practices, poor workmanship, and frankly, in some places, about housing contractors just not caring about the families they are serving,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.

“The time for talk is over. If these companies cannot get the job done, you owe it to our military families to find a company who will.”

 

Stars & Stripes

December 3, 2019

‘I want somebody who can be fired:’ Senators seek accountability, charges in family housing crisis

By: Rose Thayer

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern and outrage Tuesday for a lack of recourse taken to hold accountable the leadership within the military and the private companies that oversee military family housing in the wake of the past year’s spotlight on the poor living conditions of some base residences.

The committee last heard from the military’s top brass in March on their plans to fix problems such as mold and vermin infestations, lead paint exposure and substandard maintenance work that plague on-base housing.

Congress took interest in housing following a Reuters news agency report published a year ago highlighting these and other housing problems. Tuesday’s hearing, the Senate committee’s third on the subject this year, was meant to garner a progress update on fixing the housing problems.

But progress has been disappointing, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee chairman, said in his opening statement.

“We continue to hear regularly from families across the country about questionable practices, poor workmanship and about housing contractors not caring about the families they’re supposed to be serving,” he said. “When is enough enough?”

 

The Washington Post

December 3, 2019

Lawmakers press Pentagon on oversight of ‘slumlord’ housing contractors

By: Aaron Gregg

The U.S. military’s top brass faced tough questions and harsh criticism Tuesday at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee as lawmakers drew attention to poor living conditions at privately run housing complexes on military bases across the country.

It was the latest skirmish in an ongoing scandal that has shaken public confidence in the Defense Department’s oversight of taxpayer-funded, privately managed complexes that house military families.

Over the past year, service members and their spouses have drawn attention to housing complexes that are infested with mold and sewage. They say such conditions have been allowed to persist because some profit-minded contractors have consistently ignored maintenance requests, enabled by a systemic lack of oversight from the Defense Department.

The privately run housing is a relic of a late-1990s privatization drive in which the Pentagon outsourced management of on-base housing in hopes of reducing bureaucracy. Today, there are 14 housing contractors responsible for 79 privatized military housing developments across the United States — 34 for the Army, 32 for the Air Force and 13 for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The hearing drew the highest-ranking officials from each of the four major services: Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps.

It also drew dozens of military family members who clapped and cheered as the top officials were questioned.

 

Washington Examiner

December 3, 2019

Mold, rats, and rot: Senators slam ‘slum lords’ for conditions at private housing on military bases

By: Russ Read

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee today blasted private military housing companies for behavior equivalent to that of “slum lords.”

Civilian and uniformed military leaders testified before the committee in response to a Government Accountability Office report that found problems in the Pentagon’s oversight of private housing for its personnel. Military families around the country have reported problems with the housing, including rampant mold, rat infestations, and rotting walls and floors.

 

Air Force News Services

December 3, 2019

Senators frustrated by uneven pace addressing privatized housing problems

By: Charles Pope

Tuesday’s hearing was a follow-up to a previous session in March to measure progress addressing widespread problems with base housing maintained by private contractors. Among the myriad chronic problems are moldy houses, rodent infestations, and gas and sewage leaks.

While senators acknowledged progress, there was bipartisan concern about what they considered the slow pace.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., committee chairman, set the tone early, noting the “dismal conditions” at some bases, including Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He told Barrett, the other service secretaries as well as the military chiefs from the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines that “confession is good for the soul.”

“The time for talking is over,” he said, likening the current housing issues to the “crisis” that confronted Walter Reed Medical Center in 2007 when shoddy care, unhealthy conditions and sluggish response were uncovered. Inhofe’s observations are important because he chairs the committee and because Tinker Air Force Base is in his home state.

 

Newsweek

December 4, 2019

Military Families Live in Housing with Mice and Mold, and Congress Wants ‘Slumlords’ and Top Brass Held Accountable

By: James LaPorta

Senate hearing Tuesday made it clear that the Pentagon needs to get its house in order. All of its houses, in fact. Families of service members affected by substandard living conditions on military installations heard little more than apologies and promises from service secretaries and chiefs, even as a new report shows that military housing remains a problem.

 In his opening statement, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who chairs the Senate Armed Service Committee, said, "To our witnesses from the Department, I have to ask, 'When is enough enough?'

Before he closed out his remarks, Inhofe recognized the military families who traveled to Washington to attend the Senate hearing. The generals and admirals and service secretaries turned to observe and applaud them.

Inhofe added: "To our DoD witnesses, as I have said before, these are the people whose trust you must regain."

 

Federal News Network

December 4, 2019

Military considering dropping some housing contractors after botched mold cleanup

By: Scott Maucione

The top civilians in each military service say it may be time to pull out of contracts with some privatized military housing companies after seeing shoddy work fixing long-standing problems in the homes of service members and their families.

The comments come after the Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday stating that the Defense Department can’t properly monitor and track the condition of privatized housing because the data on the homes produced by 14 corporate housing partners is rife with data anomalies and inconsistent business practices in how the data are collected.

A Tuesday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with military service secretaries, top brass and the GAO further revealed stacked odds against military families living in substandard living conditions. Senators heard about contract structures that impeded proper oversight of military housing, nondisclosure agreements with families as a condition of occupation — which kept them from reporting issues to DoD — and incentive fee structures set up in favor of companies.

 

The Daily Caller News Foundation

December 4, 2019

Housing Companies Subject Military Families To Serious illness From Disgusting Housing Conditions, Military Wives Say

By: Mary Margaret Olohan

Housing companies subject military families to serious illness by purposefully covering up unsanitary housing conditions, military wives say.

Military Matters Foundation founders JoAnne Mantz and Janna Driver provided the Daily Caller News Foundation with exclusive polling and photographs and said that military families are subjected to mold-ridden homes that seriously impact the health of both their families and their husbands who serve in the Armed Forces. Mantz’s husband retired from the U.S. Navy Sunday, while Driver’s husband retired from the U.S. Air Force in March.

The MMF founders attended a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on privatized housing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where Republican Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe called the conditions of military base homes a “national crisis.”

“We’ve come to learn that it is a problem nationwide,” he said and promised to take action against such conditions. “It’s a national crisis of proportions we have not seen since the scandal at Walter Reed a decade ago.”

 

Military.com

December 4, 2019

‘We Were All Sick:’ Military Families Take Housing Horror Stories to Capitol Hill

By: Richard Sisk

They came from Fort Benning, Georgia; Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma; the Army's Presidio of Monterey, California; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia; and other installations to a Senate hearing room Tuesday on the off chance of telling their stories to top leadership.

The occasion was a rare gathering of all the service chiefs and secretaries to testify at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the crisis in the construction and maintenance of privatized housing on military installations nationwide.


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