WITH QUALITY & HEALTH QUESTIONS PLAGUING PRIVATE HOUSING AT NY BASES LIKE WEST POINT, SCHUMER LAUNCHES MULTI-TIERED EFFORT TO CLEAN UP CONDITIONS FOR OUR TROOPS & THEIR FAMILIES AND IMMEDIATELY INCREASE OVERSIGHT & REGULATIONS; SENATOR SAYS NATION’S HEROES DESERVE BEST HOUSING POSSIBLE
After A Litany Of Hazards To Human Health Were Unearthed In Privatized Military Housing, This Month’s Report Shows Corporate Housing Partners May Have Been Creating Fraudulent Maintenance Docs, Ripping Off The Department Of Defense – And Worse – Our Heroes
To Address Privatized Housing Crisis, Schumer Urges Army To Publicly Support NDAA Housing Provisions ASAP, Expedite Release Of Inspector General Privatized Housing Report And Investigate Any And All Instances Of Potential Fraud
Schumer To Army: It’s Time To Give America’s Bravest The Best We Have To Offer
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a three-pronged plan to improve the military’s privatized housing at installations like West Point, which is currently in crisis. Schumer explained that not only is the housing at West Point and other bases across the country plagued by serious hazards to human health and public safety, but that according to recent reports and allegations, the military’s privatized housing partners may have falsified work orders for financial gain.
First, Schumer called on the Army to publicly support the provisions in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that directly address the ongoing military housing crisis, including a tenant bill of rights, a dispute resolution process for tenants, and boosted Department of Defense (DOD) oversight policies. Second, Schumer urged the Army to expedite the release of the Army Inspector General report on privatized housing, so that Congress can properly and effectively conduct its oversight responsibilities. Lastly, Schumer requested the Army brief Congress as quickly as possible on its plan to address these allegations of fraudulent business practices in the military’s privatized housing.
“First we find out that the privatized Army housing for the men and women who risk their lives to defend our freedoms is littered with hazards to human health and safety, like black mold, then we learn that corporate privatized housing partners may have been ripping the military off and lying about how quickly they respond to routine maintenance requests. Simply put, this must change, and right this second,” said Senator Schumer. “So today, I am urging Army leaders to support the provisions passed in the Senate NDAA to boost privatized housing oversight, expedite the release of the Inspector General report, which will help inform Congressional oversight, and to investigate any housing partners that could be found guilty of fraud. No member of our U.S. military—the very best and most courageous in the world—should have to fear the health and wellbeing of their family is being harmed by the house they live in.”
Schumer explained that earlier this July, the U.S. Air Force announced it would be withholding incentive payments to one of its most prominent privatized housing partners, Balfour Beatty Communities – the very same operator that manages housing at West Point. News reports indicate that Balfour Beatty Communities employees may have created fraudulent maintenance records, showing that the company had been expediently responding to and addressing maintenance requests at a base in Oklahoma. These documents allowed the company to meet certain maintenance goals and earn a greater financial windfall from the Department of Defense, when in reality, employees were ignoring many of these requests and taking long periods of time to respond the others. Schumer explained that the Army has indicated it plans on pursuing its own investigation into similar examples of fraud at Army bases, and urged it to do so as soon as possible.
Schumer explained that he is pushing to ensure the final NDAA includes a number of measures to ensure high-quality privatized housing options for families living on military installations. First, Schumer said, the bill authorizes additional funding for housing personnel. This funding would be used to hire more staff that would then conduct thorough inspections, oversight and planning of the military’s privatized housing stock. Additionally, the NDAA includes a privatized military housing tenant bill of rights. The tenant bill of rights would establish a sorely-needed dispute resolution process for families to receive help in addressing the hazards they may have in their homes. The NDAA would also establish measures that instate new quality assurance and quality control measures, including additional mandatory health and hazard inspections.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the Army appears below.
Dear Acting Secretary McCarthy:
I write to request that you take immediate action in response to the ongoing housing crisis, which currently impacts hundreds of New York military families throughout the state. I am confident that ensuring the safety and health of service members and their families remains your top priority, and I strongly urge you to take steps to rebuild trust within our communities.
First, I request that you publicly support the provisions in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that directly address the ongoing military housing crisis. Both the Senate and House of Representatives have put forth numerous proposals that would strengthen oversight and accountability of privatized housing partners, including a tenant bill of rights and a dispute resolution process. Furthermore, the bill would authorize additional funding for the Army to hire new housing staff across all of its installations. Despite the urgent need for these reforms, the Department of Defense has appealed and opposed the vast majority of Congressional proposals. Nonetheless, I hope that the Army will voice its strong support for these provisions as the NDAA advances through the legislative process.
Second, I request that you expedite the release of the Army Inspector General report on privatized housing so that Congress can properly and effectively conduct its oversight responsibilities. I have been made aware that the Inspector General has completed its investigation, but that the report still requires your approval before its release. Furthermore, it has come to my attention that the Army plans to publish this report “For Official Use Only” (FOUO), which means that it will not be releasable to the public. I urge you to reassess the Army’s position on this matter and, if appropriate, submit the Army IG report in a publicly-releasable format. Military families have a right to know the extent of the problems they are facing in their own homes and communities.
Finally, I request that you provide a briefing to Congress on the Army’s plan to address allegations of fraudulent practices in the military housing program, which have recently emerged indicating that privatized housing partners may have falsified work orders for financial gain. This practice is unacceptable and must be thoroughly investigated. I urge you to look into this issue across all 34 Army privatized housing projects and take appropriate actions, including the suspension of paying incentive fees to privatized housing partners, if deemed necessary.
Our service members deployed abroad deserve to know that their families are safe at home. I encourage you act swiftly to address these problems with the Army housing program before they get worse.
Thank you for your consideration of my requests. I look forward to your timely response.