U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this morning at a SASC hearing to receive testimony on the chain of command’s accountability to provide safe military housing and other building infrastructure to servicemembers and their families.
As prepared for delivery:
The committee meets today to receive testimony from the service secretaries and service chiefs of our nation’s military.
At the end of December, I heard from families about the dismal conditions they faced in privatized housing in Oklahoma.
Since that time, this Committee has acted quickly. We held a hearing where we heard heart-wrenching testimony from family members, privatized housing partners and military leadership.
Senator Reed and I sent our staff to a number of military installations, including Fort Bragg, Norfolk, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and Tinker to investigate these problems.
Government has never acted so quickly. Well—not all of government is acting, but the Senate, at least.
I would like to read you a portion of the trip summary that staff wrote, which I will note, was shared with each of our witnesses:
“From both home inspections and sensing sessions conducted with current on-base residents, the systemic issues outlined at the recent SASC hearing are not only substantiated, but we believe the problems may be much worse.
Installation commanders had different opinions of their housing inventory before and after we conducted our tours.
Where they thought they had a good understanding of current housing conditions, most came away embarrassed that they were not aware of some of the dire situations...”
Specific issues include: absolutely no quality assurance from the services (which the chain of command admits is a problem), primary partners and subcontractor maintenance performing shoddy patch work instead of remediating the cause of the problem, and extreme frustration with the Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP), which is supposed to curb energy usage for on-base housing.
That is where the summary ends but this is where the tough questions must begin.
How did we get to this point where the chain of command felt they were not empowered, expected, or morally obligated to help their own?
What actions have you taken since that hearing?
Why didn’t you know about this and fix it before Congress had to step in?
Who is responsible, and who is being held accountable?
Finally, what can we do now to make this right for our families?
I have asked the chain of command from each service here today because the health, safety and welfare of our service members are the responsibility of everyone, from the Secretary to the squad leader. Plain and simple.
The chain of command failed to take care of its own, and lost their trust. Now, the chain of command must regain that trust.
But the contractor must bear an equal or greater share of this responsibility.
By no means will we bail the contractors out and pass along those costs to the taxpayer.
They agreed to take care of our families, and in fact, by their own admission, these contractors have not.
In closing, we always say, “Recruit the service member. Retain the family.”
But if we lose the trust of military families, we risk losing the next generation of service members.
With that, I would like to recognize any of our military families who are here today. Would you please stand?
To our service secretaries and chiefs, these people represent the thousands of military families whose trust you must regain.
Before I turn to Senator Reed, I would like to ask Members to stay on topic today. We are here to get answers for our families. Our witnesses will be back in the coming weeks to answer questions on other important issues. I appreciate you respecting this request.