Here's How Each Service Is Tackling Poor Military Base Housing Conditions

Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited the homes of Soldiers and their families at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Feb. 21, 2019. (U.S. Army)
Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy visited the homes of Soldiers and their families at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Feb. 21, 2019. (U.S. Army)

Each of the military services this week has announced plans conduct inspections of base housing and interviews with families to discover how badly service members have been impacted by unhealthy living conditions.

In the wake of recent reports of neglected facilities and hazardous living conditions, as well as ongoing pressure from lawmakers to rectify the problem, the services issued directives on how they plan to address problems, including black mold, rodent and bug infestations, water damage, radon contamination and faulty wiring.

The Air Force last week ordered commanders at all its bases worldwide to conduct a "100 percent review of the condition and safety of all military housing by March 1," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein said in a joint statement.

Wilson plans to visit MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Wednesday to speak with affected families and housing management leadership about what more can be done to corner the dilemma, the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday.

The service will conduct home walk-throughs and interviews with families at all 74,500 family housing units across the Air Force, officials said. In addition to an immediate Air Force Inspector General review on how the service has been responding to housing complaints, senior leaders at bases "will be responsible for identifying and helping resolve a host of problems in housing where airmen and their families live," according to a Feb. 19 release.

Air Force officials told Military.com they would have to receive permission before entering any military family’s home.

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The Navy will conduct home inspections and reach out to "100 [percent] of Sailors living in government and Public Private Venture (PPV) family housing" to understand whether families are satisfied, the service said Feb. 23.

"Every Sailor residing in PPV or government housing will be afforded an opportunity for a visit from their command at their residence no later than April 15, 2019," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith said in a release. The visits will be voluntary and by invitation only.

"The purpose of these visits is to raise Navy awareness of family living conditions, to allow command leadership to personally observe any issues affecting the home and to understand any actions being taken to address them," officials said.

The visits will serve as an opportunity to help sailors and their families resolve any outstanding housing issues, they said.

Richardson and Smith said additional information on how sailors and spouses can reach out to report a problem will be published this week.

"This is unacceptable and will be resolved," Richardson wrote on Twitter. "We are prioritizing efforts to better understand our Sailors' living conditions in on-base government family and PPV housing to ensure that as residents they are provided with the quality of life they have earned and deserve."

Echoing the CNO, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said he "expects commanders to know how their Marines and Sailors are living and to advocate for them."

"Because we care, we have an obligation to be personally involved in the lives and welfare of our Marines and their families," Neller wrote Feb. 22 on Twitter.

The Marine Corps issued a "white letter" to commanders and senior enlisted leaders to conduct voluntary home visits to all who reside in government quarters, privatized military housing or off-base civilian rental property by April 15, the service said in a statement.

Command teams will visit only those members "who accept the command's offer of assistance" but will still "provide information on how to address housing concerns," the statement said.

Officials could bring about more effective changes by holding government housing contractors in check, some Pentagon leaders said.

Last week, Army Secretary Mark Esper, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey met with the heads of seven contracting companies following a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on how Defense Department leaders plan to solve the widespread problems.

Esper, Milley and Dailey traveled to Fort Meade, Maryland, earlier this month to conduct their own inspection of the privately managed housing on the installation, where they observed what they described as "unacceptable ... deficient housing conditions."

Dailey traveled to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, last week while Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy conducted similar tours at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Eustis, Virginia, the Army announced Monday.

"We will stop at nothing to make sure that we are doing the right thing by our Soldiers," McCarthy said in a statement. "It shouldn't take us going to stand in someone's kitchen to understand the extent of the problem."

Companies that met with the service include Balfour Beatty Communities, CRC Companies LLC, Corvias Military Living, Hunt Military Communities, Lincoln Military Housing, Lendlease Corp. and Michael's Military Housing.

The Army has also said it would step up inspections of all base housing and hold town halls across more than 40 installations for soldiers and families living in more than 87,000 homes, according to a service release.

In addition to oversight of housing and improved communication with the companies, Esper, Milley and Dailey said they had agreed to a tenant bill of rights that would suspend certain fees and let soldiers withhold rent payments if their housing issues aren't solved.

The Air Force and the Navy said they too support a tenant bill of rights that would provide troops with more protection with housing authorities, according to a Reuters interview.

Issues over the safety of privately managed military housing were exposed last year in several months-long investigations by Reuters, titled "Ambushed at Home."

They included reports of children poisoned by lead in older homes and families falling ill as the result of mold growth in new construction.

-- Patricia Kime contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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