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Top Sustainment Official: Housing Privatization ‘Right Thing to Do’

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 27, 2019) -- Despite reports of poor conditions in some privatized military family housing across the continental United States -- about 200,000 homes in all -- the Military Housing Privatization Initiative was a good idea, the assistant secretary of defense for sustainment told lawmakers yesterday.

Robert H. McMahon said the initiative was focused on "improving the quality of on-base housing and providing the necessary long-term investment our personnel deserve."

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He spoke during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on military construction, veterans' affairs and related agencies.

McMahon acknowledged that deficiencies in military family housing must be addressed and told lawmakers that the Defense Department will work with both housing privatization partners and Congress to "provide the best housing possible" to service members and their families.

--Mitigation Efforts Underway--

In submitted testimony to the committee, McMahon said efforts are already being made to ameliorate the issues that have been raised.

"I am increasing the oversight my office provides to ensure the military departments fully and effectively exercise their responsibilities to ensure that privatized housing is managed in a manner protective of human health and the environment," he said.

"This includes establishing new reporting requirements and programmatic reviews regarding military department monitoring of potential hazards in privatized housing, such as reporting on the number of child falls from windows in both privatized and military-operated housing," McMahon said.

A "Resident Bill of Rights," is the start of an increased effort by DOD and housing privatization partners to ensure military families have a positive experience in privatized housing, he said.

"Through increased engagement, we will better educate military families about their roles and responsibilities to help identify any issues with housing conditions, and the roles and responsibilities of the privatized partner and the installation housing teams," McMahon said.

About 99 percent of military family housing in the United States has been privatized, he said, and the effort to do so has "dramatically improved the quality of on-base housing and has facilitated the long-term investment necessary to maintain high quality housing."

--New Housing--

McMahon was on the Hill as part of a series of hearings on the fiscal year 2020 defense budget request.

Within that request is about $1.3 billion targeted toward DOD's worldwide family housing inventory -- which includes 34,000 government-owned and 7,100 leased family housing units.

About $293 million of that total is targeted towards construction of new housing, and about $1 billion is targeted at operation and maintenance of DOD's government-owned and -leased family housing units and oversight of privatized housing on U.S. installations.

Additionally, DOD requested about $674 million to support construction and renovation projects to support unaccompanied service members, including nine such projects that are expected to improve the living conditions of more than 3,900 trainees and permanent party individuals.

Major projects include $73 million for the second phase of a training barracks at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; $164 million for a barracks complex at Navy Base Guam; $110 million for recruit barracks at Joint Base San Antonio; and $134 million for a barracks project at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Honolulu.

"Our modernization effort includes a focus on improving privacy and access to amenities that are important to our unaccompanied personnel," McMahon said.

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