HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a push for accountability after the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, released a nearly 120-page report examining military housing.
The GAO said, in some cases, it found substandard conditions in the barracks. The investigative arm of Congress toured 10 unspecified military bases across the United States.
Barracks rooms are usually reserved for junior enlisted service members.
Here are some of the claims made by GAO:
- Some barracks had broken windows, inoperable fire systems, broken door locks and broken elevators.
- One installation official told GAO a bad odor filled the barracks because methane gas had leaked out of aging plumbing with sewage pipes “that routinely crack and require replacements.”
- Discussion group members told GAO tap water was often brown and did not appear safe to drink.
- At an installation in the D.C. metropolitan area, GAO reported broken air conditioning. Service members had to live without air conditioning on hot days.
- At seven of the 10 installations, GAO said there was insufficient lighting, vacant units occupied by unauthorized personnel and no existing or working security cameras.
- The agency observed mold or mildew growth in “occupied barracks rooms, as well as vacant rooms at five installations.”
- Six of the 12 discussion groups brought up issues with pests, including bedbugs, rodents, cockroaches and wasps. GAO wrote that in some cases officials told service members they had to take care of pest control.
Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) read the nearly 120-page report.
“My first reaction is we have to do better for our military members,” she said. “The pictures we saw in the GAO report were scathing.”
According to the report, service members told the GAO that the poor barrack conditions affected their “quality of life and readiness.”
Kiggans wants to see real change.
“It’s an issue we put a lot of band-aids on for many many years,” she said.
A lot of the issues are attributed to funding. The report describes one Navy base that requested funding 10 years in a row because there wasn’t enough bed space.
That installation never received funding, forcing the command to put 500 service members on aircraft carriers or berthing barges.
“There is a building that needs to be demolished that can’t be because the defense budget is inadequate. It all comes down to funding,” Kiggans said.
She hopes her position within the Armed Services Committee’s Recruitment, Retention and Quality of Life Task Force will allow her to get that necessary funding where the military needs it most, including fixing housing conditions.
“We are laser-focused on what we can do to address these quality life issues and take care of our men and women,” Kiggans said. “NAS Oceana did not get funding for housing this past cycle. It’s going to take people like me.”
She said that at NAS Oceana, only about 49% of the housing is livable.
“I look at the base and it’s frustrating for me,” she said.
Kiggans said to get the funding, it might take “thinking outside the box a little bit.”
She is interested in privatized housing, where the installation obtains private sector financing and management to” repair, renovate, construct and operate military housing.”
You may have seen this type of housing at Naval Station Norfolk.
“I am very interested in pursuing that option,” Kiggans said.
The GAO laid out 31 recommendations for the Department of Defense to fix the problems.
Kiggans wants the DOD to implement them all. That’s why lawmakers, including Kiggans, signed a letter calling on Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, to swiftly adopt the recommendation.
Some of the recommendations included changing how the military conducts condition assessments and increasing oversight of barracks programs.