Army Pledges Better Preventive Housing Maintenance
The Army has launched its own efforts to inspect and fix family housing maintenance problems while Congress orders the Government Accountability Office to investigate the condition of military housing overseen by private companies.
This is a top priority issue, with Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper writing that Army leaders are “deeply troubled by the recent reports highlighting the deficient conditions in some of our family housing.”
“We have directed an Inspector General investigation and have taken other actions,” Esper said. “We will hold our chain of command and private contractors accountable to ensure they are meeting their obligations to provide safe, high quality family housing.”
“It is unacceptable for our families who sacrifice so much to have to endure these hardships in their own homes,” the secretary said. “We are fully committed to providing a safe and secure environment on all of our installations.”
His remarks came as Alex Beehler, the Army assistant secretary for installations, energy and environment, testified before Congress that the Army “is committed to providing safe and secure family housing that meets or exceeds health and safety standards, which includes preventing exposure to environmental hazards.”
Beehler spoke at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that focused on complaints of serious maintenance problems in some privatized housing that has left some families to deal with conditions such as mold, rodent and pest infestations, and lead paint.
Beehler acknowledged the need for improvements but said housing is being inspected for environmental problems.
“Although Army-owned and privatized homes are built and maintained to high standards, they are affected by weather, just like all other homes in the world,” Beehler said. “In areas of high humidity, after heavy rains, or when a hurricane or tornado strikes, additional maintenance and unanticipated repairs will inevitably be needed. The maintenance departments for our Army-owned and privatized homes strive to quickly address residents’ problems through well-established policies and procedures, and to follow up to ensure that our residents are satisfied. Nonetheless, in some cases, we and our partners have let residents down by failing to completely resolve problems in a timely fashion.”
Help is coming, Beehler said. Army garrison staffs and private companies overseeing housing are now focused on “preventive maintenance inspections of homes to verify proper ventilation is occurring, especially in bathrooms,” he said.
If there are mold issues, Army housing staff or the private partner will promptly respond, he promised. In response to resident concerns regarding communication between them, the housing manager, and the installation, the Army is also developing a standardized template for communications that can be shared among all installations.