U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this afternoon at a SASC subcommittee hearing to receive testimony on the state of privatized housing on military installations. A list of the witnesses can be found here.
As prepared for delivery:
Good afternoon. The Subcommittees on Personnel and Readiness and Management Support meet jointly today to receive testimony on the state of privatized housing on military installations.
Today we will have three panels of witnesses—we’ll hear from the families of active duty service members, representatives of privatized housing and the military leaders responsible for overseeing military housing.
I welcome all of our witnesses and thank them for being here today.
In the future, this will be conducted at the full committee level, but due to scheduling conflicts we were unable to do that today, and I believe we needed to have this hearing as soon as possible.
It is important for everyone to understand why on-base housing is privatized. In the late 1990s, on-base housing, which was managed by the Department, was in disrepair.
We privatized the system, putting our faith and trust in the private sector, to give our families a better quality of life while the contractors received fair compensation.
Here is the fact – our service members and their families deserve high-quality, affordable housing. Period. One mistake is too many.
After hearing from service members and their families in Oklahoma and across the country, it is clear that isn’t happening everywhere.
The Military Family Advisory Network received nearly 17,000 responses in just seven days to a survey about privatized housing experiences.
Of the close to 15,000 families who currently or recently lived in privatized family housing, almost 45 percent responded that they have a neutral or favorable privatized housing experience.
That leaves 55 percent, or at least 8,000 residents who are currently dissatisfied with where they are living.
There are some out there, however, who try to minimize this problem by saying this only happens in one percent of privatized housing. Even if that were true, that would still be 2,000 military families having problems. This survey shows otherwise.
We’re not going to be able to resolve this issue in one sitting—today’s hearing is just the beginning. We need necessary reforms to ensure accountability and excellence in privatized, on-base housing so we’re going to keep on this.
We need to look at three things: Care of the service members and their families, accountability in the contracting process and examine what, if anything, the chain of command is doing to address the families concerns—and what they should be doing.
Ranking Member Reed and I will work with the Government Accountability Office as well as the DOD Inspector General to thoroughly investigate and report back to the Committee on steps, whether administrative or legislative, that can be used to ensure our military families have the housing they deserve.
I remind both industry and the Department to fully cooperate in these investigations.
I would also like put on the record today that our witnesses’ testimonies and other conversations they had with Members and the Committee are “protected communications.”
As such, any form of reprisal or threat thereof, should be immediately reported to this Committee and will be immediately referred to the DOD Inspector General for swift action.
Make no mistake about it. I will take any report of reprisals on our military families directly to the Secretary and Chief of that specific service.
We’re going to get to the bottom of this and today’s hearing is the right first step.
Before I turn to Senator Reed, I would like to remind our Members that we have three panels today so we will have three minute rounds for the first panel and four minute rounds for the others to ensure we get everything accomplished.