Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz Statement at Oversight Hearing on Privatized Military Family Housing

2021-02-16 09:45

Congreswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chair of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on oversight of privatized military housing:

Today we welcome a representative from the Office of Secretary of Defense, Mr. Paul Cramer, and Ms. Elizabeth Fields from GAO.

The focus of this hearing is to have the witnesses provide an update on the Department of Defense’s efforts to fully assess the extent and nature of the troubling – and persistent issues within the privatized military family housing program. 

In addition, they will provide details on their on-going actions to remedy the inadequate oversight of the program, and their long-term plan to make permanent positive changes to the program. 

To remind members of the subcommittee and our new members, in August 2018, Reuters published the first in a series of articles chronicling health and safety issues experienced by military families living in privatized military family housing.

These articles prompted an ever-increasing number of military families from across the country to come forward with their experiences. 

The large geographically diverse group of families indicated that there were systemic failures in the privatized military family housing program. 

Families of all Services, ranks, and paygrades have reported health problems related to lead and mold exposure, rodent infestations, rude and dismissive housing management, and ineffective oversight of the program by the Services, which the Services acknowledged in hearing last year.

The witnesses today will present findings on how the Department of Defense has improved its processes, the continued way forward and what still needs to be rectified. 

Many of the problems experienced by military families appear to be products of poor management by private partners and insufficient or ineffective oversight by military services. Many military families have complained about the maintenance support they have received from the private companies.

The Services report that a lack of visibility on work order processing has contributed to the overall lack of oversight.  In addition, the current system incentivizes work order completion without respect to the quality of maintenance performed, which has led to poor workmanship and unqualified personnel performing the work.  

An over-emphasis on occupancy rates incentivizes quick turnover of homes, which in turn can lead to a lack of preventive maintenance of homes between tenants.

While DOD has taken key steps to strengthen oversight, more action is still needed.

There will also be some insight from Ms. Field on how extreme weather has a financial impact on housing.

I am looking forward to a good conversation and learning what has been accomplished over the last year.

117th Congress