A group of lawmakers wrote a letter to a top U.S. defense official demanding answers after a report revealed military service members’ inadequate living conditions in barracks.
“The recent Government Accountability Office report outlining poor living conditions in our military barracks is deeply disturbing,” Rep. Mark Alford, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital.
“On a daily basis, these brave men and women put their lives on the line defending our freedoms; the least we can do is provide them adequate housing.”
Alford was one of several lawmakers who joined forces to demand answers from the Defense Department in the letter, which is addressed to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment Brendan Owens. It follows a GAO report last week that outlined dire conditions of some military barracks at installations across the country.
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The 118-page report, which included several pictures of barracks rooms and buildings at 12 unnamed military installations, outlined how many of the buildings young troops are forced to live in are plagued with problems such as overflowing sewage, cracked sewer pipes, water damage, pests and mold or mildew growth. The report also outlined how GAO investigators spoke with service members to give them an opportunity to voice their concerns.
And many troops complained of unsafe drinking water, broken air conditioning or heating units and unsecured or broken doors and windows that had in some cases led to squatters occupying rooms.
The report also found that the defense department has conducted insufficient oversight of improvement efforts for the buildings, often leaving the issue to individual services to handle.
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“While the Department of Defense takes pride in the well-maintained golf courses and new EV charging stations at its installations, it has turned a blind eye to the living conditions endured by service members, which can include collapsing ceilings, mold and mildew and even squatters raiding service members’ personal possessions,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., told Fox News Digital. “This is a total disgrace that warrants further investigation.”
Reached by Fox News Digital for comment about the GAO report last week, Owens acknowledged the department has, at times, “failed” to make sure troops are housed in proper living spaces but promised to act “aggressively to increase oversight and accountability in government-owned unaccompanied housing and to address unacceptable living conditions impacting our service members.”
“In return for the commitment and sacrifices that service members make when they volunteer to defend our nation, the Department of Defense has a moral obligation to ensure that the places they live and work dignify their service,” Owens said. “The DOD has, in too many instances, failed to live up to our role in making sure housing for our soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Guardians honors their commitment and enables them to bring the best versions of themselves to their critical missions.”
While the letter acknowledged that the DOD has “nearly 9,000” barracks at locations across the world to keep track of, it argued the decaying conditions of some of the buildings had become “completely unacceptable.”
“Our service members put their country and the mission ahead of themselves,” the letter states. “We must ensure the U.S. government and DOD is taking care of our soldiers, particularly our new recruits.”
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The letter also notes that the military has in recent years faced an “unprecedented recruitment crisis,” a trend poor living conditions in the barracks only threatens to “exacerbate.”
The GAO report noted it is unclear exactly how many troops are forced to live in barracks in dire conditions, though it said “at least thousands of service members are affected” by the issue.
In response, the lawmakers requested that the DOD provide a response on what it is doing to correct shortfalls when it comes to monitoring the conditions of barracks, while also questioning whether the department should implement some sort of uniform standard across all branches.
“This administration is spending millions of dollars to house illegal immigrants in hotels while forcing our brave service members to live in squalor,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who also signed the letter, told Fox News Digital. “It is outrageous, and Republicans will not let this stand.”
The sentiment was shared by R-Ga.; Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who said she is “proudly joining my colleagues to demand that the Department of Defense make safe and clean military housing a top priority.”
“I am appalled at the findings of the GAO report which detail how our brave Servicemembers are being subjected to subpar living conditions in military barracks across the country,” Stefanik told Fox News Digital. “Our men and women in uniform put their country ahead of themselves daily. At the bare minimum, we must provide our Servicemembers with a livable environment to call home.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.
Alford told Fox News Digital most service members are not expecting to “live in the Taj Mahal,” but argued troops “deserve to live somewhere comfortable and safe that they can call home.”
“What they have now is the exact opposite of that,” Alford said. “The Department of Defense must rectify these problems and I will continue to hold them accountable.”
Gallagher told Fox News Digital troops join the military “knowing they won’t be staying at the Ritz” but argued that “Congress must implement more rigorous oversight into the Pentagon’s prioritizations and work to pass a defense appropriations bill that gives sufficient funding to improve service members’ quality of life.”
The letter, also signed by representatives James Moylan, R-Guam; Rich McCormick; Don Davis, R-N.C.; and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., argues that improving the living conditions of troops should be a “top priority” for both Congress and the DOD.
“We are committed to working with DOD to rectify these problems while also maintaining rigorous oversight of the Pentagon,” the letter concludes.
Reached for comment by Fox News Digital, a spokesperson for the Pentagon said the Department had “no additional details to provide at this time” and would “respond directly to the lawmakers.”
Source: Fox News