July 22, 2019
Following reports that the U.S. Air Force has suspended paying incentive fees at all 21 military housing bases operated by Balfour Beatty Communities, U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, releases the following statements:
“Balfour Beatty’s allegedly widespread use of fraudulent work order practices is unacceptable, period. The Air Force has done the right thing by suspending all incentive fees to Balfour Beatty, and this should remain the case while the FBI and other proper military authorities investigate these practices,” Senator Inhofe said. “The Senate‘s bipartisan defense authorization bill took serious steps to eliminate illegal and unethical behavior by privatized housing partners from military housing and give our men and women in uniform the respect and care they deserve. As Congress finalizes this legislation, we will continue to prioritize policies that demand accountability from housing partners, guarantee appropriate recourse and ensure this never happens again. If these allegations are substantiated, my committee will do everything within its power to ensure any wrong-doers are punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
“These are deeply troubling allegations and I commend the Air Force for stepping in and taking decisive action to stand up for military families and get to the bottom of this. The health and well-being of our troops and their families must always come first. It appears that military families were getting short-changed so that some of these managers could pocket bonuses. If that is the case, they need to be held accountable and taxpayer money should be clawed back,” said Senator Reed. “Congress needs to keep working on a bipartisan basis to improve on-post military housing and the services need to take aggressive action to ensure our troops are being well cared for. These landlords need to get the message that we won’t tolerate substandard treatment for our troops and their families. We expect them to honor their contractual obligations and we’ll be watching like hawks to ensure they do.”
Sens. Inhofe and Reed, as the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Armed Services Committee, have been leading voices against allegations of substandard treatment on the part of housing companies within the Military Housing Privatization Initiative. The Senate Armed Services Committee has held numerous hearings to shed light on the situation, including the only full committee hearing on the topic held in Congress. In an op-ed in Stars and Stripes, Inhofe and Reed offered their commitment to fixing the broken military housing system. On June 27, the Senate passed, with wide bipartisan support, the Inhofe/Reed-led National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1790), which outlined extensive reforms to the privatized housing program, including specific policies to put an end to fraudulent work order practices, including: strengthening transparency by requiring each contractor to provide the housing management office at each installation access to their maintenance work order system, and providing recourse against companies that fail to remedy health or environmental hazards in a timely manner and prohibiting any employee who has committed work order fraud under the contract from continuing to work under the contract.
Last month, Sens. Inhofe and Reed learned that Balfour Beatty was engaging in fraudulent work order practices at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Inhofe spoke out then, saying: “It’s been extremely disheartening to hear of the unsafe, substandard housing in military installations across the country and how a lack of accountability prevented families from seeking repairs and relief – including at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. No longer. I led efforts in this year’s NDAA to implement effective, permanent solutions to the wide range of problems we’ve seen with military privatized housing, including addressing fraudulent work order practices. Our military families deserve high-quality housing throughout their service, and that includes ethical and fair treatment by housing providers.”