Army pressed to fix dilapidated base housing by senators

May 5, 2022, 2:38 PM | Updated: 3:16 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army must put more money and effort into repairing poorly maintained and substandard base housing for military service members and their families, U.S. senators demanded Thursday, amid persistent reports that mold and other issues threaten troops’ health.

One after another, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee pressed top Army leaders during a hearing to spend money on military housing in their states.

“We have all heard the horror stories of substandard on base housing, military families across the country, living with black mold and collapsed ceilings and electrical and fire hazards and a lot of other substandard conditions,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “We need to fix our shameful military housing problem, and we need to do it as quickly as possible.”

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth repeatedly told senators that housing is a priority, but that it competes for funding in the Army and defense budgets with other key needs, including equipment and weapons modernization and training. She said that due to the Army’s vast size, it’s impossible to get to all the problems in one year.

The Army, she said, is requesting nearly $2 billion for military housing in the 2023 proposed budget, and has a 10-year infrastructure plan. That plan would have the Army invest $27 billion in infrastructure over the next decade.

“We have a very large footprint with a large number of bases. All of them have housing. And I would love nothing more than to be able to renovate all of the housing around the country that needs to be renovated in a single year. But we are not able to do that,” she said.

The housing focus comes on the heels of a massive fraud case involving one of the largest providers of military housing in the United States. Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, which oversees about 1,700 homes at bases in Georgia and Texas, faced widespread claims of negligence and failure to do repairs. The company pleaded guilty in December to committing fraud against the United States from 2013 to 2019, was ordered to pay $65.4 million in fines and restitution and was placed under an independent compliance monitor for three years.

A Senate panel earlier this year found that the company continues to respond inadequately to mold and other structural problems.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., criticized Army leaders for not addressing problems at Fort Leonard Wood, saying he’s been given conflicting reports on what, if any, housing replacements would be funded at the base in his state.

“I was told last year there were $341 million that were going to be allocated towards replacing housing. Then I was told later only $50 million would be available to Fort Leonard Wood. And then I was told after that it would be zero,” Hawley told Wormuth during the hearing. “You can imagine I’m not very happy about it.”

Wormuth promised to nail down the correct answer, but again warned that repair money for the base may not be in the budget for fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

“We try to look where the need is most pressing and sort of develop a schedule,” she said. “But I’d be happy to look into it. And I understand that you’re frustrated hearing different things at different times.”

Officials noted that the Army submitted a separate request to Congress that outlined projects that aren’t funded in the budget that would also be priorities, and thy include an additional $330 million for housing issues.

That additional money, said Warren, should be included in the Army’s base budget, if, indeed, housing is a priority as leaders say. And she questioned why the $1.9 billion total for housing in the main budget request is 40% smaller than the current budget would provide.

According to the Army, the $1.9 billion budget request is actually a 12% increase over last year’s request. Congress, however, voted to add nearly $1.5 billion in military construction funds to that request, resulting in a total of more than $3.2 billion for the year. Congress has not yet acted on the proposed budget, so has not added funds.

Gen. James McConville, the chief of staff of the Army, told senators the Army is doing all it can to ensure quality housing and other services for troops. “When our soldiers get the call that it’s time to deploy, we want them laser focused on their mission, knowing that their families will be well taken care of at home,” McConville said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
3 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
11 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
11 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
18 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
18 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Army pressed to fix dilapidated base housing by senators