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Congress will improve military housing

GAO found subpar living conditions at DOD facilities, lawmakers say

Aerial view of the Pentagon.
Aerial view of the Pentagon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sewage overflows in restrooms, methane gas leaks, mold, brown tap water, extreme temperatures, bedbugs, rodents and cockroaches. These are just some of the conditions that our servicemembers have been subjected to in their barracks. 

The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act required the Government Accountability Office to review the Department of Defense’s efforts to maintain and improve military barracks — but the results of that review are disheartening. The GAO report details serious health and safety risks at barracks and substandard housing conditions at military installations across the country. From our perspective, it is unacceptable that the men and women who have made the choice to serve in our armed forces face these conditions. 

Under our leadership, the House Armed Services Committee has already started working to improve the quality of life for servicemembers living in barracks and we will continue to force the DOD to raise the quality of living conditions for servicemembers until we are satisfied. It is a choice made by administrations to underfund military housing modernization and improvements – that ends now. We heard directly from DOD officials in a hearing earlier this month that facility, sustainment, restoration, and modernization budget lines are routinely underfunded in the president’s budget requests and we were appalled that the services could not commit to fully funding their requirement for infrastructure upkeep. It is our intent to hold the president’s budget request accountable for any decisions to underfund military housing. How can the Biden administration expect to retain and recruit our nation’s best leaders when they routinely refuse to fully fund a critical part of our military readiness? 

The unacceptable state of our military housing is having an adverse effect on our readiness and retention efforts. As the Pentagon faces its worst recruiting crisis since the Vietnam War, we must force the DOD to remedy these housing problems so that young Americans inclined to service aren’t turned off by poor living conditions. We also need to retain those servicemembers currently serving. If improving housing will help Americans to stay in the services, then we must move forward and provide the standard of living they have earned.  

As members of the House Armed Services Committee, we are conducting our oversight responsibilities so that we can establish safe and livable conditions for our servicemembers. We are working to immediately identify hazardous conditions in barracks so that we can force action and improvement. In the fiscal 2024 NDAA, we authorized funding above President Joe Biden’s budget request for building and renovating barracks. We also required DOD to establish minimum standards for safety, security and habitability of military barracks before assigning servicemembers to live in such barracks. This year we will continue our focus on providing for our servicemembers — which is why our Quality of Life Panel is working diligently on policy recommendations for the fiscal 2025 NDAA to improve the quality of life for our servicemembers. 

We must never forget that the foundation of America’s military strength are the men and women who volunteer to serve.  The quality of life of the all-volunteer force and our military families is fundamental to our national security. Safe housing is the very least we can provide for those willing to sacrifice everything to keep our nation free. 

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., is chairman of HASC’s Subcommittee on Readiness. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., is chairman of HASC’s Subcommittee on Military Personnel. And Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., is chairman of HASC’s Quality of Life Panel.

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