U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, visited Tinker Air Force Base yesterday with senior Air Force leadership, including Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matt Donovan and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson.
Air Force leadership came to Tinker at Inhofe's request to assess ongoing and emerging health, chemical and structural issues with Balfour Beatty-managed housing on base. Following tours of affected housing units, Inhofe, Secretary Donovan, Secretary Henderson and other SASC and Air Force staff met with Balfour Beatty Communities President Chris Williams to discuss housing conditions and determine how Balfour Beatty will work quickly to address these nationwide problems.
Inhofe released the following statement on the visit:
“My trip to Tinker confirmed additional problems our families are having with privatized housing on base: homes not up to fire code, potential exposure to asbestos, and continuous mold problems. This is beyond unacceptable. No families should have to live like this, especially not our military families. I’m horrified and outraged at these conditions.
“As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I initiated a major Department of Defense and Congressional campaign to eradicate the issues that led to unsafe substandard living conditions. We held two hearings; the department launched several investigations and committed to move families out of dangerous conditions immediately when alerted. Additionally, my committee put over 35 new provisions of law addressing housing reform into the national defense authorization bill, which should pass very soon. These provisions give families and the department new tools to hold these private contractors accountable.
“My biggest disappointment was discovering new problems like the lack of firewall protections between newly built housing units and mold problems that persist because the root causes were never addressed. I have to ask, what other undiscovered problems exist? Seven months ago, Balfour Beatty, the company responsible for the housing at Tinker Air Force Base, testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee that they would move quickly to address systemic issues. They have not. We put them on notice then, and now they have been put on notice by the Air Force that they have 90 days to fix these problems.
“While I applaud the Air Force for taking these actions, I wonder why it has taken so long. I encourage the other services to step up and do the same if they have contractors that are not taking care of our families. Our military families deserve so much better than this. These problems need to be fixed now and forever. If the current set of housing contractors won’t do it, the Air Force and the other services need to find someone who will.”
Ahead of yesterday’s meeting, the Air Force sent Balfour Beatty a letter giving them 90 days to come up with a comprehensive plan to fix problems plaguing their housing. At the end of 90 days, if the plan is not accepted by the Air Force and the Air Force does not see “prompt and substantial improvement in [Balfour Beatty’s] performance,” the Air Force will initiate a formal dispute process. Click here to download the letter.
Background: Inhofe learned last week that all 292 duplex units built by Balfour Beatty on Tinker Air Force Base required repairs, including 77 units that required substantial repairs to address required fire-rated construction between the housing units as required by code. This follows months of reported issues relating to mold, rodents and pests, radon gas, and other structural deficits, which Inhofe has been working to address through his work on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Inhofe has been a leading voice against allegations of substandard construction and service provided by housing partners within the Military Housing Privatization Initiative. The Inhofe-led National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2020 (S. 1790) (NDAA), which passed the Senate 86-8, includes more than 35 new provisions that will overhaul the housing program, improve quality of life for service members and their families, and require greater accountability and transparency from the military chain of command and the housing companies. The Senate and House of Representatives are currently finalizing the bicameral version of the NDAA, which will be voted on in the coming weeks.