Military housing: strengthened oversight needed to make and sustain improvements to living conditions

Abstract: Junior-enlisted service members without dependents (e.g., a spouse or child) typically live in military-managed barracks. GAO reported in September 2023 that some barracks pose serious health and safety risks. As part of site visits to selected installations, GAO observed a variety of living conditions that service members and unit leaders stated were negatively affecting their quality of life, such as sewage overflow, mold and mildew, and broken windows and locks. GAO found numerous challenges in the Department of Defense's (DOD) approach to managing its barracks, including the following: DOD standards for health and safety in barracks were not well defined. Some barracks do not meet DOD standards for privacy and configuration, such as minimum number of bedrooms, in part because the military services' guidance for privacy and configuration do not reflect DOD standards. DOD does not provide sufficient oversight of housing programs for barracks, such as through appropriate guidance or direction to the military services on tracking, assessing, and remediating deficiencies in barracks conditions. GAO's work similarly shows that DOD needs to continue to improve privatized military housing, which includes about 200,000 homes for service members and their families in the United States. Around 2018, reports of lead-based paint and other hazards, such as pest infestation, raised questions about DOD's management of privatized housing. In March 2020, GAO made several recommendations to improve DOD oversight, and DOD has taken steps to implement them. However, in April 2023, GAO reported that gaps remain in DOD's efforts. For example, GAO found that DOD had not (1) set clear and consistent inspection standards for homes undergoing change of occupancy or (2) provided adequate guidance or training to officials on assisting residents in using a new formal dispute resolution process. Improved oversight and addressing GAO's recommendations would position DOD to improve the quality of living conditions for its service members.

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