Army leaders have been scrambling to find solutions for a housing crisis that could involve thousands of family homes on installations across the country where private management firms have failed to fix problems ranging from peeling paint and faulty wiring to mold, rodent and insect infestations.
These unhealthy living conditions were exposed last year in a scathing investigative series by Reuters.
"We are grateful for news agencies like Reuters and families stepping forward to talk about the challenges that they face and the inability for them to get resolution for the challenges that they have had," Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told an audience Tuesday at an Association of the United States Army event.
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At the same time, he said it is a "cause for concern" when outside sources have to "help you get visibility about yourself."
McCarthy recently observed some of the substandard conditions soldiers and their families are living in when he visited three homes at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and three at Fort Eustis, Virginia, all of which are managed by public-private partnerships, he told reporters at the event.
"In all instances, there were issues," he said. "It was very helpful for me. It was very difficult and, any time that there are challenges for the homes of our soldiers and we are not doing anything about it, it's embarrassing and it's a reflection on me and every leader in the Army. And we've got to do better."
McCarthy said the service is looking at ways of empowering soldiers and commanders, so they can deal with a public-private partnership that is failing to fix problems in a timely manner.
"We have to do better at managing our enterprise and understanding where the problems are," he said.
Installation commanders have been holding town hall meetings to hear from soldiers and family members living in on-post housing and to inform them of the steps the Army is taking to address the housing crisis.
Army senior leaders have been working with the heads of seven private management companies to draft a tenant bill of rights designed to give soldiers options, such as withholding rent payments if companies fail to address complaints.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.