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Navy Cuts Housing Costs by Moving Admirals on Base

Villa Nike -- which served as the resident for the NATO commanding officer of Southern Europe until 2015 -- was one of the places cited by Congress as an example of exorbitant housing costs overseas. (Stars and Stripes photo)
Villa Nike -- which served as the resident for the NATO commanding officer of Southern Europe until 2015 -- was one of the places cited by Congress as an example of exorbitant housing costs overseas. (Stars and Stripes photo)

NAPLES, Italy -- Three years after it was singled out for the high cost of housing its admirals, the Navy command in Naples has cut expenses by moving most of its flag officers on base.

The service has budgeted just over $700,000 in leasing costs to house six admirals and a senior civilian employee in the coming fiscal year, about half of the $1.3 million it reported three years ago. The actual amount of new spending is even lower, as several units are already paid for in the base lease.

A Congressional report in 2013 criticized several overseas military commands for the high cost of housing some general and flag officers. It singled out Naples, where admirals lived in large off-base villas with steep annual costs.

The largest, 12,000-square-foot Villa Nike, was reserved for the four-star commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. Provided free of lease by Italy since 1952, the villa had become increasingly expensive for the Navy to maintain -- the service requested more than $400,000 in maintenance fees related to water infiltration for fiscal 2013.

Five other off-base villas were reserved for the three-star commander of U.S. 6th Fleet and several one- and two-star admirals. Each cost the Navy more than $200,000 to lease annually.

The Navy has since dumped those leases, and it abandoned Villa Nike in 2015. Today, only the two highest-ranking admirals live off-base: The four-star commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, currently Adm. Mark Ferguson, will reside in 8,000-square foot Villa La Colombaia at an annual cost of $235,000. The three-star commander of U.S. 6th Fleet, Vice Adm. James Foggo III, lives in Villa Marilu, which will cost the Navy $208,600.

Ferguson currently lives in Villa Sara, a former three-star quarters transferred to the four-star after Villa Nike's decline. The Navy's 15-year lease of Villa Sara runs out this year.

The other admirals now live in on-base housing that had been reserved for senior officers -- tenant commanders at the O-6 grade, said Lt. Cmdr Robert Johnson, a spokesman for Navy Region Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. Each costs around $60,000 annually and is already included in the base lease. The civilian lives in a base unit that costs about $33,000.

In each case, admirals were rotated into the on-base quarters as senior officers ended their tours, meaning no one was displaced, Johnson said. New senior officers were given the option of living in town or on-base, Johnson said. Those who live in town would receive about $46,500 annually in housing and utilities, under current euro exchange rates.

Ed Cannon, director of the Fleet and Family Readiness for the Navy region, said his office has made an effort to lower housing costs in recent years.

"We're all concerned about expenses and making sure we're doing the right thing," he said.

The four-star move to Villa La Colombaia carries a hefty one-time cost for modifications, however -- about $500,000. The total breaks down to $332,200 for security and force-protection measures; $48,300 for fire, smoke and gas detection systems; and $109,500 for mechanical, electrical and civil work.

High-ranking officers overseas have traditionally occupied larger homes, which are used to host events and political or foreign delegations. The four-star admiral in Naples also commands NATO Joint Forces Command in Naples, and both the three- and four-star admirals in Naples are expected to work closely with European counterparts.

Beginning in fiscal 2013, Congress required commands to report all of their general and flag officer quarter housing costs above $50,000 with each budget.

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