WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has pressed the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) regarding recent reports documenting serious hazards in military housing at several bases in Virginia.
An investigation by Reuters revealed significant problems in base housing such as cockroaches, mice, mold and leaks, and described the difficulty that military families have encountered in getting the private management companies that own and operate the housing to address issues posing health hazards for families living in the homes. As part of its investigation, Reuters identified problems at several facilities across the country, including Fort Belvoir, Quantico, Oceana Naval Air Station, and other Hampton Roads naval bases. Most of the issues Reuters uncovered involved contractor Lincoln Military Housing, which manages 36,000 military family homes nationwide, including thousands of rental units in Hampton Roads.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing what the Senator termed “unacceptable conditions” in the homes, Warner demanded a briefing from the Defense Department on the current situation as well as a plan from DoD to ensure the safety of military families residing in private housing moving forward.
“The health and safety of our service members and their families are of the utmost importance. Our nation’s military families deserve safe and healthy housing. It is imperative that you determine a plan to alleviate these issues in the coming weeks,” Sen. Warner wrote.
This isn’t the first time Sen. Warner has intervened on behalf of military families experiencing health hazards in military housing. Back in 2011, dozens of military families stationed in Norfolk described problems with the same contractor identified in Reuters’ recent report, Lincoln Military Housing. As now, the affected families – experiencing issues such as leaks, mold, and infestation – recounted major difficulties in getting the company or the Navy to take the complaints seriously. After Sen. Warner got involved, however, Navy brass and Lincoln executives pledged to improve their responsiveness, and the company took steps to address mold and other hazards.
“As a result, [Lincoln Military Housing] agreed to offer free mold inspection to any resident requesting the service, to hire an independent professional engineering firm to survey the conditions, to update training for maintenance teams and more; the Navy also committed to improving tracking tools and enhancing oversight of property management performance. But today it appears that these changes were insufficient or ignored,” Sen. Warner noted in this week’s letter to the Secretary of Defense.
In August of this year, Sen. Warner – along with Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) – alsopressed Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to address problems with lead poisoning affecting families at several Army bases around the country, including Fort Belvoir.
The full text of the letter appears below. A signed copy of Sen. Warner’s letter to Sec. Mattis is available here.
The Honorable James N. Mattis
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301
Dear Secretary Mattis:
I am writing to express my deep concern over a recent Reuters article alleging pervasive health hazards in private military housing across the country, including at Fort Belvoir, Oceana Naval Station, Quantico, and in additional areas in Hampton Roads Virginia. The article documents unacceptable conditions such as rodents and mold in housing and describes the difficulties military families face in ensuring these hazards are addressed by private real estate companies.
This is not the first time that unhealthy conditions in military housing have been documented. In November 2011, I was made aware of similar complaints regarding mold in private military housing in the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. Working with Navy officials and impacted military families, I strove to ensure that both the Navy and Lincoln Military Housing, a residential real estate management company responsible for the housing, implemented a plan to reduce these hazards. As a result, LMH agreed to offer free mold inspection to any resident requesting the service, to hire an independent professional engineering firm to survey the conditions, to update training for maintenance teams and more; the Navy also committed to improving tracking tools and enhancing oversight of property management performance. But today it appears that these changes were insufficient or ignored.
In 2015, the Department of Defense’s own Inspector General expressed concerns about unsafe military housing, specifically related to Fort Belvoir and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. More recently, I was in touch with the U.S. Army regarding another Reuters article, alleging lead poisoning at a number of Army installations across the country.
I ask that you provide our office with a detailed briefing as soon as possible outlining the immediate and long-term mitigation strategy to ensure military housing – both public and private – is safe and secure for our servicemembers and their families, and to provide legislative proposals or guidance on legislation needed to ensure that there is increased accountability for private companies. Please contact Caroline Wadhams in my office with questions. She can be reached at 202-224-2418.
The health and safety of our servicemembers and their families are of the utmost importance. Our nation’s military families deserve safe and healthy housing. It is imperative that you determine a plan to alleviate these issues in the coming weeks.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to your timely response.
Mark R. Warner