WASHINGTON D.C. — On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Martha McSally grilled military branch heads over poor living conditions in military housing complexes managed by private companies. McSally compared the firms to “slumlords” and challenged the firms’ CEOs to live in the hovels for the holidays.
McSally issued her challenge during a U.S. Committee on Armed Services hearing on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) privatized housing findings.
“It’s hard enough to serve in the military. It’s hard enough to be a spouse of someone who serves in the military, but you add onto it the challenges that we’re talking about here today, and the types of stories we’ve heard for what families have had to put up with. As someone who has served myself, this pisses me off,” said McSally.
“So maybe some of the CEOs need to move into some military housing over the holidays. What do you guys think about that? And see how they feel trying to figure out where they’re going to put up their Christmas tree or where they’re going to be serving Christmas dinner,” said McSally as military families attending the hearing cheered in response.
The Government Accountability Office report detailed weak oversight of the 14 companies running housing complexes across the U.S. on military bases. The report found that unreliable and/or potentially misleading data, discrepancies in enforcement, and a lack of advocates for the military families who live in the units, have allowed companies to provide substandard housing with lead paint, mold and pest infestations.
McSally asked the GAO Director of Defense Capabilities and Management if there are any companies performing acceptable work.
“I see there’s basically 14 companies that have been involved in privatized military housing. Are any of them not acting like slumlords at this point? Are any of them doing a good job?”
“I wouldn’t want to characterize any individual company as good across the board or bad across the board,” responded GAO Director of Defense Capabilities and Management Elizabeth Field. “I would say at almost every installation we’ve visited we found that the military housing officials on the ground were extremely frustrated with the private partner personnel on the ground. [They] were not getting the cooperation or support they needed.”
Under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, approved by Congress in 1996, military bases began leasing land and any housing on it for 50 years to private firms to be responsible for maintaining and managing the property. The program was approved by Congress in 1996 in response to concerns of the Defense Department about “inadequate and poor quality housing for service members.”