WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released a statement today on a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, which he helped stand up to bring greater scrutiny to the privatized military housing program. The GAO study found deficiencies in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) oversight of privatized military housing and issued a series of recommendations, including ones suggesting that DoD take steps to better track maintenance data and to improve communication with servicemembers and their families – measures that Sen. Warner successfully worked to pass into law and has been fighting to get implemented ever since.
“This GAO study, the result of a year-long investigation of privatized military housing, shows what many military families already know – that the DoD has not done enough to protect servicemembers and their families, who have been forced to put up with unacceptable living conditions in private military housing for far too long. Last year, the President signed into law our nation’s annual defense bill, which included a number of measures I authored to give military families new tools to hold private housing companies accountable. This bill also created the first ever Tenants Bill of Rights,” said Sen. Warner. “We need to ensure that every single one of these provisions are implemented as soon as possible. As the GAO study pointed out, there needs to be more transparency in how work order data and maintenance records are tracked. Families deserve to be able to access and follow the status of their work orders so that they can make more informed decisions. In addition, the services need to better communicate the responsibilities of the services and the partners, and to make clear distinctions between the military housing office and the private partner.”
“Families also need to have the ability to withhold their Basic Housing Allowance if issues in their homes are not addressed, and to have a process for dispute resolution if these problems persist,” he continued. “Congress has acted, but my work is not done. I’m committed to keep pushing the DoD to implement these provisions as quickly as possible. It’s about time to even out the power imbalance between our servicemembers and privatized military housing companies, and these GAO findings are a stark reminder of that.”
Among other things, the GAO study found that work order data collected by military departments and private partners was not captured reliably or consistently and therefore could not be used by the military services to monitor the quality of homes. The report also found that the data in reports provided to Congress was unreliable – leading to misleading results – and that the performance metrics used by military departments to monitor private partners did not provide meaningful information on housing conditions.
Last year, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to make much-needed reforms to privatized military housing, following reports of health hazards in military homes across the country. He successfully secured large portions of his legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed in December.