tv Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Military Housing CSPAN March 9, 2019 2:00am-4:41am EST
the secretaries of the army, navy and air force as well as the military branch about housing conditions on military bases. members ask the officials about reported cases of lead paint, mold and vermin and housing for service members and their families across the country. this hearing is two and half hours. >> the meeting will come to order. i see the witnesses have already taken their positions. we appreciate that very much. we always start on time. it has great effects. the committee meets today to receive testimony from the service secretaries and the service chiefs of our nation's
military. at the end of december, i heard from families about the dismal conditions they faced and privatized housing in oklahoma and then around the country. i was here 20 years ago when the decision was made. of a member the discussion at that time. it is going to work for a while and then you wait 20 years from now and see what problems erupt and it happened. since that time, the committee has acted quickly. we held a hearing where we heard heart wrenching testimony from family members, privatized housing partners and military leadership. one of those was janet driver who is in the front row of the second session. and i just told her how much i appreciated the fact that she drew this to my attention. her husband is at tinker air force base. you can always be more sensitive to and understanding when you hear problems
emanating from someone who has personally experienced them. senator reid and i sent our staff to a number of military installations including fort bragg, norfolk and others. the others came from the services who actually went to everyone. and i have talked to many of you who have been to the installations here and certainly the army. you have never seen government working as fast as it did in the last few weeks. i would like to read to you a portion of the trip summary the staff wrote that i will note was shared with each of our witnesses. i am quoting now and this is for the benefit of not just the witnesses here at the table but those at the back of the room which we will recognize in a moment. "from both home inspections and sessions conducted with current on-base residents, the systemic issues outlined at the recent hearing are not only
unsubstantiated but we believe the problems may be much worse. the installation commanders had different opinions of the housing inventory before and after we conducted the tours. they thought they had a good understanding of current housing conditions. most came away embarrassed and were not aware of some of the dire situations. specific issues included absolutely no assurance from the services which the chain of command admits is a problem. primary partners and subcontractor maintenance performing, patchwork instead of remediating the cause of the problem. and extreme frustration with the resident energy conservation program. which was supposed to curb the energy uses for on-base. this is where this ends. this is where the tough questions must begin.
how do we get to this point where the chain of command felt that they are not empowered, expected or morally obligated to help? i can remember my chain of command when i was a private in the united states army. that was it. nobody questioned it. that somehow has changed and perhaps this is going to help us . what actions have you taken since that hearing? why didn't we know about this? who is responsible and who is accountable? finally, what can we do now to make this right for our families? i have asked the chain of command from each of the services here today because of the health, safety and welfare of our service members come are the responsibility of everyone
from the secretary to the squad leaders. the chain of command failed to take care of its own and lost their trust. now the chain of command must regain that trust. now the contractor must bear an equal or greater share of this responsibility. by no means, will we bail the contractors out and pass along the cost to the taxpayer. that is not going to happen. they agreed to take care of our families and in fact, by their own admission, these contractors have not. in closing, we always say, recruit the service member and retain the family. if we lose the trust of the military families, we risk losing the next generation of service members which could be a very serious problem to the safety of this country. with that, i would like to recognize any of the military families that are here today. we are going to ask you to stand up. stand up if you are family of
military. let's give them a round of applause. >> [ applause ] >> let me summarize what our feelings are now. help is on its way. to our service secretaries and chiefs, these people represent the thousands of military families whose trust you must regain. before i turned to senator reid, i would like to ask the members to stay on topic. we are here to get answers for our families and our witnesses will be back in the coming weeks to answer questions and so forth. what we are going to do on this is something we have not done in quite a while. that is, we are going to have -- instead of the five-minute question, we will have seven minute questions. we will let you do that. i don't mind being unpopular
this day. maybe you will forget it tomorrow. >> thank you mr. chairman. >> let me interrupt you. i am asking the committee to consider nomination of william -- to be principal deputy administrator national and nuclear security administration, assistant secretary of defense, readiness management. and tom mccarthy to be assistant secretary of defense. lisa -- to be judge of the u.s. court. is there a motion? second. all in favor, say aye. i apologize. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to think the service secretaries and the chiefs were being here today. and the three weeks since the last hearing, the military privatized housing -- it has
become clear that there are systematic failures on the part of both private housing companies and the department of defense. while horrific conditions differ by installation ranging from paint, mold and rodents, the fundamental breakdowns are unfortunately all too, and across the country. these housing problems are exacerbated by the fact that military families frequently move every few years and has been reinforced by a culture of enduring hardships rather than speaking of them for fear of retaliation among other reasons. for far too long, privatized housing companies have been allowed to deliver lackluster customer service to military families. conduct and their minimum routine maintenance, and exercise zero quality control. while accruing sizable property. all of this has been able to occur because of the lack of accountability by the department of defense. i want to give you one example. a navy family has squirrels enter their attic three >> host: -- hole in the roof.
dropping the ceiling fan on to the bed. the squirrels were removed but the hole was not fixed. furthermore, over the last two and half years, workers from the housing company visited the same home 52 times for instances of inadequate work. 52 times without bothering to examine the root cause of the problem. on top of this, the housing company charges the family $1780 a month. i guarantee nobody in this room whatever put up with the standard living conditions some of these military families have had to endure. i am eager to hear what solutions will be opposed -- will be posted today. i have several thoughts. purse, i believe the services have lost sight of the important philosophy of taking care of uniformed personnel and their families in all aspects
of life. i want to know how each of you intend to instill that obligation and your commanders. second, military families must feel empowered with a standard bill of rights across military services. families deserve the flexibility in the event of a housing problem not adequately resolved in a timely fashion. some have begun looking into the situation on how they can implement it on their own. i'm interested in your views. installation commanders need to be far more active in the oversight role and advocate for the homes of the war fighters. military families also deserve access to maintenance records conducted in their homes to privatized housing companies need to fundamental he overhaul the way in which they conduct customer service and execute work orders. companies are conducting the bare minimum when it comes to
maintenance and band-aid fixes are commonplace in order to cut cost and maximize profit. yet we still may hear from housing companies in the coming months that the answer to the problem is still more b.a.h. and i agree with the chairman that it is not the answer. all of us -- services, housing companies and congress have let down the men and women who selflessly serve this country. we need to do better. i look forward to hearing more specific -- more specific solutions from the panel today. thank you. >> thank you senator reid. we will hear from our secretaries. and we will do this in order -- starting with you and then coming across the table. >> the entire statement will be part of the record. we are asking you to confine your remarks too minutes.
>> good morning. ranking member reid and distinguished members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. thank you also for the fact that you gave our families a voice a few weeks ago and brought his attention -- brought this issue to do everybody's attention. it has had a cathartic effect and we look forward to discussing this matter with you today. thank you for bringing this issue forward. one of our fundamental obligations as army leaders is to take care of soldiers and families. the recent reports of substandard conditions in military housing units are deeply troubling. our family sacrificed so much for the country and they endure these hardships in their homes. they are fully committed to solving this problem and have initiated a number of actions to ensure our shoulders and their families have access to safe, quality military housing across all of our installations. i would like to submit for the record a one page document that
outlines the army's housing action plan. i believe each of you has a copy and we will briefly highlight the key actions for the committee. >> it will be made part of the record. >> army currently has 111,000 housing units. of which 87,000 were privatized under the rci program. the homes are made by seven private companies across 49 installations. the transition to privatized housing in 1998 marked a dramatic improvement in living conditions for our soldiers and their families. however, this model assumes that the rci contractors with sufficient army oversight would continue to maintain the quality of these homes. and too many cases, it is clear that the private housing companies failed to uphold their end of the bargain. a failure that was enabled by the army's and sufficient. we are determined to investigate these problems and to hold our housing contractors and chains of command accountable. the army is taking immediate action to fully understand the
scope and scale of our military housing problems and to remedy the current housing deficiencies. within 18 hours of the first hearing on this topic, i traveled with -- travel to fort meade where we walked through multiple homes and spoke to the affected families. we also met with the leadership of the privatized housing community and impressed upon them to take immediate action. since then, army leaders have traveled to fort bragg, fort campbell and west point to conduct our on housing business and meet with families and leadership. over the last three weeks, army installations have conducted town hall meetings in collaboration with the rci contractors in addition to establishing housing hotlines. this is provided -- has provided families a forum to report problems directly to commanders. and we also ordered all senior commanders to complete a 100% screening of installation housing by march 18th. where life, health and safety
issues exist, commanders are instructed to immediately relocate housing residents until the housing conditions are remediated. this screening process is ongoing. today, we have completed over 19,000 housing visits. we have also met with the ceos or senior executives from each of the seven privatized housing companies to discuss the current problems. the poor customer service, lack of work order transparency, and ability of residents to hold the hunting does housing companies accountable were presented during the townhouse. all of our housing contractors submitted to working together to find ways to improve customer service and increase transparency. additionally, they agreed to ensure sufficient numbers of trained technicians. and staff are available at each installation to address problems and a timely matter -- manner. we have initiated inspections across the 49 installations with rci housing. these inspections are focused on customer satisfaction, work
order responsiveness and the ability of our commands to provide part -- proper oversight. many residents have told us that communication between residents and the private housing companies is broken. to enable greater transparency in the future, we are developing tracking systems to develop a common picture to residents, garrison leadership and housing contractors. we are also restructuring plans and are more closely aligned with those areas that are most important to our residents such as work order resolution and customer satisfaction. it is not acceptable for us to provide high rates when the quality of service provided to our residents is substandard. furthermore, to ensure our soldiers and their families have proper legal protection, we are working in conjunction with the other services to have a bill of rights. i believe the committee received this yesterday and i believe this was submitted to the record as well. many army families are concerned they lack the ability
to hold the private housing companies accountable for poorly performed services and are inadequately protected from retaliation. this bill of rights will outline the resident's basic rights while living in military privatized housing including options that address the problems they are facing most frequently. and to better empower the chain of command, we will open training for garrison command teams on contracting and housing management. additionally, we will increase garrison staff before quality assurance and quality control checks on work order completion and housing transitions. furthermore, we will develop our on reporting system for residents to rate timeliness, quality of work and level of customer service to provide additional data to the garrison oversight teams. providing a safe quality living environment for our soldiers and their families is critical to the readiness of the force. this is additional to building trust so when soldiers deployed, they can rest assure their families are taken care of back home. to do this, the army has to get back involved in the housing business. >> secretary spencer.
>> ranking member reid, distinguished guests, i wish i could say i am pleased to be here today but i am not. i want to start by first apologizing personally on behalf of the department of the navy to any sailor, marine, soldier, airman, coast guard men affected by the housing nowadays that we have seen before us right now. the people of the navy marine corps team will always the our greatest resource and our greatest asset. and the safety and well-being of sailors and marines and their families is a top priority for all of us. after the initial assessment, i can state with certainty that we can and we will correct the issue. the issue at hand, which is not acceptable. we will make the process and the product better in the long run. the solution is based on the simple precepts of communication, education indicate -- and attention. when i say simple, that is just
the basic concepts. the details will be forthcoming. i also want you to know that the three service secretaries are working in lockstep. much that you are hearing today, we are doing and coordination. you will hear of a common lease and the development of that. we are working hand in hand in that regard. on top of the considerable demands of service, no military family should ever have to contend with chronic maintenance issues or concerns such as mold, pests or intrusions into their house. in order to fulfill our obligation to our families and ensure the strength and readiness of our fours, we must demand excellence and responsiveness for all concerned, including our housing partners. it is clear in many cases that we have fallen woefully short of this obligation. and upon reviewing the issues surrounding housing, it is apparent that there is culpability around the table.
we are taking steps to address the immediate problems as well as address the business and education processes to permanently correct systemic issues. upon the assessment, the c markup o and the marine corps issued letter stating that by april 15th of this year, every marine and navy family and private, public venture housing will be offered a personal visit from base officials forgetting the uniform command back into the occasion -- into the equation. the command teams will not be satisfied until the housing issues they discussed are resolved. following that, a regular drumbeat, follow-on chain command ascension will follow. we have been in discussion with our private public venture partners about the availability of apps that are available now and they are attacking this issue that allows for reporting, tracking, rating resolution and enhancing the
communication that is needed between our service people and the private, public venture partner. the three service secretaries will be holding quarterly meetings with the ceos of our venture partners to address and monitor come on a continual basis, the satisfactory delivery of housing for our military families. our housing partners will remain an important component of the housing solution offered to military families. however, our military leaders must never outsource their role as advocates for our service members and their families. the navy marine corps team will continue to pursue improvements in military housing with a sense of urgency to deliver the services our military families deserve. the value, the american taxpayers expect and the readiness our global force requires. going forward, we look forward to working with this committee to do everything in our power to protect the health, well- being and safety of our sailors, marines and military families wherever they call home. thank you.
. >> thank you mr. chairman. our military families deserve good housing. and when there is a problem with a house, it should be fixed promptly and competently. moreover, our airmen should be comfortable that they can identify problems without any fear of retaliation. over the past three weeks, the chief and i directed the chain of command to do 100% health and safety review of all air force family housing. we had the initial results of that review and i would ask that this is put into the record. >> without objection. >> the real question is, where we go from here. in the immediate term, we have to take action on all of the health and safety issues that were identified and make sure they are addressed competently,
promptly and fixed. the chief and i also will be clarifying and communicating to our commanders, our expectation of them and of our civil engineering center so that we know and they know what we expect from them going forward in taking care of our airmen. in the medium-term, we have to fix the system. there are several elements of that based on our initial view. the first is an enforceable tendon bill of rights. my colleague has already put that into the record. it is something that the pre- service secretaries are united on but it is a draft and we are looking also for input from all of you. second, we, we believe we need to strengthen the base commander input, oversight and eyes on when it comes to family housing. that means giving base commanders more input on performance fees, more support when it comes to quality control
in their own housing offices as well as support from the civil engineering center. and more support from contracting representatives who have the ultimate control over those contracts. third, we need to improve communications and feedback loops to restore trust with airmen. we -- they need to be engaged, not just on the first day when it is so chaotic moving in, but thereafter, so that they know what to expect and how to get help when they need it. there are multiple avenues for them to get action and report problems and we are going to make sure all of those avenues are open. and forth, we have also directed an inspector general review which is ongoing, to look at the system. to identify additional actions that need to be changed, to fix the problem. thank you chairman and i look forward to your questions.
>> thank you secretary wilson. for those of you who were not here during the opening of the meeting, we will have seven minute questions. we will also hold you to the seven minutes because we have a full house here. and people do want to be heard on this subject. i will start off. i will have my first two questions to address to the army and to the air force. not the navy at this point. the questions -- and you decide which one is the best one to respond. number one, when were these issues first brought to your attention? and who should be held accountable? because you are not aware of what was going on in your own service. secondly, because the issues were brought to your attention, which installations have you personally visited specifically about the issue. >> thank you mr. chairman. on the first matter, in regard
to the size and scope of this issue, it came up the week that the committee held its hearing. i think the media reports coupled with the report of the military family association and culminating in the hearing is what i think brought home to us the size and scale of that. with that said, last summer, we were aware of the lead-based paint issues and some of the homes such as fort benning. we took a number of actions. we can talk about that to address the problem. and we have been working on it pretty diligently throughout the fall. and then at a family farm in october, the chief and i come as a meet with families and discuss issues, there were housing issues and homes like fort gordon and west point where we quickly attacked those problems and remediated them. but nothing with regard to the size and scope that you heard from the witnesses that appeared before this committee. >> the second part of the question was, since the issues
were brought to your attention, how many installations have you, the chief either supervised or personally visited? >> i personally visited fort meade, fort bragg and i'm going to meet with families and do townhouse. so i talk about this quite often. >> chief -- >> in terms of the timeline, chairman, similar, the july august timeline for lead paint. and november, october and november, started becoming aware of reports on mold and then it came to fruition at the time of the hearings. >> i appreciate the briefing you have given me. i know you have been very busy since the last meeting that we had. i appreciate that very much. secretary wilson. >> mr. chairman, since the hearing, i have visited three air force bases. with respect to awareness of the problems, the air force was
aware of construction defects at four bases. on page 7 in 8 of the handout in front of you, it highlights those dates on where we were aware of construction defects. and the actions that we are taking there. i think that while the air force was managing those projects and getting construction defects taken care of, what we really didn't understand was the decline in trust and confidence in the airmen, that problems would get fixed. and that is, to me, the most important part of the hearing that you had, that brought that forward to us. >> yes, ma'am. we went to geisler and maxwell air force base. the findings were very consistent with the testimony that you heard from families that came forward. and i will second what the secretary said, that the most concerning to me that i found
was the breakdown in trust and we have to rebuild, as you said, chairman. >> exercising back your memory of the previous testimony that came from the homeowners, was anything found to be inaccurate from their testimony? >> no, sir. very accurate. >> secretary spencer. you can respond to the same questions and i have a sacrament -- separate question for you. >> yes mr. chairman. since the hearings, i have visited three communities in the hampton roads area. camp lejeune and cherry point, to visit housing and meet with people there. we stepped out after the hearings and went out to the west coast -- our office did, to inspect what was going out there and hearing from the families about their concerns. nothing we found that they reported was inconsistent. >> do you want to add to that? >> i personally visited facilities around the district of washington area and have
flag officers that have also gone to the specific -- of the pacific northwest and the southwest. we have good eyes on this problem. nothing we have scene is inconsistent with the testimony and the witness of the residents. i would just echo that we became aware of this i think about the time everybody else did, and terms of the magnitude of the problem and the fact that the actual truth on the ground was differing to a great degree from the information we were responding to, which is why we are getting 100% awareness. >> i appreciate that. secretary spencer, a recent news article states that the navy is moving forward with creating a new assistant secretary for information management which by default would eliminate your assistant secretary for energy installations and environment. the second one i mentioned is the heart of the bureaucracy that is responsible for what
led to this meeting now. you came to our committee in both the majority and minority and said you wanted to make an announcement. we told you not to and you did it anyway. i would like to know, first of all, why you did it and secondly, would you be in a position right now to commit to this committee to not dispose of the position that is responsible that led to the issues of this committee today? >> senator, i will take full responsibility for what my office does. i did speak to your staff and the ranking staff about the idea that we wanted to put together, in light of the cyber report which you will soon be exposed to that we did in the navy after we had the exfiltration's. it is a risk we have to manage. i apologize for my office getting ahead of the lights.
that was not my intent. we are marching along. we will keep everything in place as is. >> will you commit to keeping that position does your current secretary for energy installations and environment? >> i will. >> senator reid. >> thank you mr. chairman. thank you for your testimony. i will begin with the army. i would hope that the housing companies are cooperating with you in addressing these problems . some might require contractual changes. is that cooperation evident and positive and genuine? >> so far, yes. the chief and i and our senior army leaders met within several days of the hearing with all seven companies. i think they were saying the right things. they agreed upfront to -- for
example, eliminating nonrefundable fees. agreed to suspending the energy program at a number of things. over time, i think there will be more challenging tasks at hand such as renegotiating lease agreements with the installations. we will restructure the incentive fees. time will tell. i think the oversight by this committee helps give us the leverage to push the changes through. >> i know the chairman and i are both continue to oversight continuously on this issue until all the problems ourselves. some of the suggestions that have been made -- just to get your reaction to the other services -- a uniform lease for all military personnel. the ability to withhold b.a.h. if there is unsatisfactory response. validation by the housing officer. but at some point, the b.a.h. should not be the right of the company but payment for
adequate housing. >> yes. that is one of the items we put into the tenant bill of rights, the ability to withhold b.a.h. and for the army, we could arbitrate that issue between the provider and the soldier and make sure we come out to a proper solution. i think on your first point with regard to a common lease agreement, i think it is fair and it is the right thing to do for the service members. i have navy personnel and army personnel and personnel on navy bases. i think the ability for a service members to go from base, to base, to base and have a common set of expectations with regard to the type of housing provided would be helpful to the force. >> what i would ask is, as you go forward and there are issues that should be properly covered, if you can make the chairman and myself aware of them, we would appreciate that. >> will do. >> and you are cooperating with the housing companies and trying to implement many of the similar proposals? >> yes, senator.
we are having fairly robust conversations with the partners. to get back on education, kinne medication and attention. >> very good. and issues with the uniform lease -- issues with the respect to withholding reid. >> most definitely. it goes along with the bill of rights. when the three of us were talking about the creation of this, we realized we wanted to get something out there in draft form for you all to view and for the communities to view. there is a lot of work to be done on this. we will revisit the operating agreement more than likely. it will take time but we have to get it right because it is a good tool. >> secretary wilson, your comments. >> senator, i also think that the idea of a common lease makes sense. we do have numbers on each other's facilities. as my colleagues mentioned, the draft of the bill of rights that we released yesterday does allow for the withholding of basic allowance for housing.
>> one of the issues that i think has come up with respect to new construction, you mentioned secretary wilson, that you found problems with construction. housing code standards -- it is funny. go out the front gate and the jurisdiction -- i got the impression from talking to the families that it is no real housing codes. it is with the company does or essentially what you allow them to do. would it be useful to develop standard housing codes in terms of initial construction and maintenance? whoever wants to jump on. >> in the case of the navy, it is overseen with the ultimate arbiter and creator of the standards in those regards. >> those standards -- the
commanders at the bases are aware of those standards? the personnel is aware of the standards so if they have a legitimate complaint, they can make it? >> that, i'm not aware of -- i'm not aware of. i can get back to you on that. >> my impression from listening to families is that there was no clear idea of what really the standard was so you could have a situation where they could come 52 times and make minor repairs and not effectively deal with the problem. >> for the record, i was commenting on original construction. when it comes to maintenance calls, your observation is correct. that is one of the things we are getting at, is the ability to put the tools in the hands of the military family without taking up too much time. to photograph the problem, track the problem and send the photograph back to the maintenance people if they don't think the problem has been corrected. the chain of command is in the communication loop. that is the primary leg of communication. >> senator reid, you are
pulling on a very important thread here as we have assessed the situation today in the army, one of the things we realized we need to improve is the education of our commanders to effectively do their job is whether it is oversight of the contractors understanding building codes, quality assurance and all of those things. and working to build that into the training and into the program construction. and the same thing in regard to the commanders. reeducating them on housing management and what the role is as commanders and leaders. >> let me reiterate what i think the chairman expressed. this is an issue that we will be engaged with and it will take a while. we understand that. but this is not going to be a passing sort of review. and trust to the goodwill and good wishes of everyone involved. we will be involved and engaged.
and any aspect that needs to be modified to help you make sure that the men and women of these services have the best housing. thank you. >> thank you, senator reid. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you to the witnesses. what i think i hear is the determination to get to the problem and fix it. i know that is the determination here and i appreciate what senator reid said about staying after this. let me -- as an air force veteran, let me direct my questions to secretary wilson. and general, i appreciate you visiting geisler recently. let me start by asking you what you found there. and to summarize, this has been an ongoing problem for quite some time, dating back as far as 2011 at geisler. there is a program called the
remediation project, mrp. some of the information we have gotten from the military members there is that this has been sort of a surface attempt to go in and clean the affected areas with some sort of disinfectant and not get behind and actually go to the root cause. this was so far as 11 families at keesler having to file a lawsuit against the contractor in the summer of last year seeking punitive damages and accusing the company of fraud and concealment. so it is a serious problem that has been there for a long time. let me ask you this. in addition, what you found -- to what extent are military members required now to live in base housing? when i was a young officer, i have the option to go off base
-- get my basic allowance and rent or buy off base. so to what extent is it more or less a requirement to live in the housing now? is that the way we do privatized housing construction now or can this happen either way we do it. if you will talk about those things and i will let secretary wilson follow-up. >> thank you, senator. i looked at the remediation program, the mold remediation program and dug into the issues they are looking at. what i found -- i will be 60 years old this year and i have lived in military family housing now for 50 years. i grew up in it. i raised my children and it. when i deployed for two years, i put my family and it.
what i found at keesler which was very consistent with the testimony we heard, is there are three things families today are worried about that i never worried about, either as a parent or as a kid growing up. i never once worried about the health of my children relative to living in a home. and we now have families that have testified -- and are worried about the health of their children. the second thing i never worried about was -- living on base is the ultimate gated community experience. it is the one place where your kids can play until dark. i never worried for my kids about the safety and security of the infrastructure in a neighborhood. and parents today -- airmen today are concerned. the third thing i never worried about -- i never worried that if i actually complained about the housing, that there would be a fear of reprisal or that my command chain of leadership would not get after it. as we look through the long
term fixes that secretary wilson laid out for the air force, we have to get those three issues. and senator reid, what you said about this being a long-term issue -- excitement in the near term based on hearings is interesting and not compelling. we will have to keep our boot on the throat of the underperforming contractors and the command chain and leadership to make sure we get after this in the long term and that we are committed to do so. >> do they have to live on base housing? >> no. there is a waterfall approach that we take. it is unique to the individual installation. they have choice to live on or off base. >> do you think there is something wrong with the program itself? >> i think the program has to work. we have to make it work. where we have failed is to ensure that we have command chain involvement, oversight, leadership, quality control and follow-up. >> what did you find with regard to this moisture
remediation project, mrp, with regard to the accusations that they are just treating the surface and not getting back in their and finding the problem? >> from what i saw, far more thorough, a construction effort in what has been described. i did not see any painting over. i saw a complete reconstruction. pulling out walls and going into the pipes. i saw much more significant engineering work to get after it. this is a trust but verify solution for the future. >> is the contractor doing that? >> they are. >> this is a little off the subject. let me just mention this. i have been concerned for number of years about unaccompanied housing in korea. if you can get back to me on the record about how many of our enlisted airmen there are
now having to live in barracks that are not yet modernized or remediated. if you can get back to me on that, i would appreciate it. it is something i have been asking about for years and years. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you mr. chair and thank you to the witnesses. the hearing three weeks ago -- it was very gripping and graphic. poor communication, poor physical condition -- possibilities of retaliation. and overwhelmingly, a lack of military oversight of this program. i will be touring norfolk naval base tomorrow and meeting with families there. the housing companies -- they must improve. but it is the military that must solve this problem. people did not enlisted to be a
tenant of a private housing company. they enlisted to be a marine, soldier, airmen or coasting. the deal is with you, not the housing problem. you are obligated to solve this problem for them. a few questions. my understanding is the contracts with the private housing providers, since it was a new initiative, offer the opportunity for the military to reopen the contracts of the five-year point to see how the program was doing and yet that opportunity was not taken up by the military. is that your understanding? >> senator, as far as i'm concerned, that is my understanding. the program at that point seemed to be going well. >> any different testimony on that? or is that generally understood? >> i was a mayor and i had a code office that used to do code compliance inspection and housing all over my city. in the first hearing, we asked the housing providers -- i
asked the question about whether they would agree with me that somebody living on a base shouldn't be living in housing that is substandard to the housing that surrounds the base and they all agreed with that proposition. in your dialogue about solving this problem, are you contemplating using the expertise of existing local housing code compliance officials to try to make sure that housing on a basis at a minimum, equal to the standards in the surrounding communities? >> senator wilson and secretary spencer. >> senator, we think we need to improve the quality assurance within our military housing offices. because those are the ones that are responsible to the base commander. and this is a command chain issue. and where we have had housing -- private housing contractors who are underperforming, we haven't really had the support
there for the wing commander to go in and to the quality assurance that needs to be done. so we think that is where it needs to improve. >> secretary spencer. >> most definitely across the board. senator, you heard me say it before. i am a firm believer that we find the best practices wherever they may be. here is an industry that is robust. they might be pretty busy. of bringing in local code officials a couple of times a year, a base commander work with them to come in audits.pot code offices would be thrilled to help you with something like year with the base commander working with them doing spot audits on a number of communities code offices would be thrilled to help you with something like this and that is not to say the military shouldn't have its own expertise but when you have code compliance officers that do this day in and day out in the communities where these folks live who would be willing to help you i think you should take advantage of that resource. we will be voting next week on
the presidents emergency declaration. he has proposed to pull three and half billion dollars out of the budget, to have billion n o of the drug budget within the dod, that funding source only has about $85 billion available in it right now so the reports suggest there would be an effort in the pentagon to pull money from other accounts into that account to boosted to to have billion dollars. i am worried and contemplating this particular challenge that should this go forward some of that $6 billion that would be money needed to solve this problem. i don't know whether you can answer this question or not but can you assure me none of the $6 billion that is being pulled from the pentagon budget to deal with what the general test a few testified last two is a nonemergency? can you assure me none of that money would come from funding that was slated to be used to deal with base housing here or
overseas? >> senator i can assure you that is my position as well and i have articulated that to secretary shanahan and i think there is a general agreement that we should not tap into either military housing or barracks i should add but i don't have final say over that. i cannot give you 100% assurance expect that is your recommendation? what about secretary spencer? >> same here prioritization and my t would be recommendation. >> thank you very much. one more question. the testimony last week was focused on military family housing as it should be. what are you doing to look at housing for single members in the military? are you also engaged in erthat effort to make sure they are living in conditions that are not substandard? >> with regard to the inspections we have underway right now those also include barracks where our soldiers live and we are picking up some
issues of the barracks also so we want to make sure we address that and overall sen. wh jack reed mentioned we are making sure we are checking on our soldiers on base. we e'have a responsibility to take care of them wherever they live and their dependents. >> again senators we said earlier the three of us are working together on this issue doing the same thing the army is doing. >> thank you sir and during my trip i went and visited the dorms and walks of them as well. they were built in 1951 so as we take a look at this in the future we are going to make sure we do not offer only family housing but all housing where they live and work. >> mr. chairman thank you. >> thank you mr. chairman. is in south dakota and when the started to come up my boss went back to what we have for housing and so forth so my
first question would be to secretary wilson i am curious we all agree on maintenance issues that we are discussing here today are simply unacceptable, is privatized housing still a viable option for our military families? if private housing is still the appropriate and vital approach what immediate long-term actions would you propose to fix these types of problems? >> thank you senator. i think many of us remember what housing was like in the midline these mid-90s and early 2000's. while we are having problems with some of our private contractors i think overall housing is in better shape than it was at the time that this initiative was started. i believe and i saw it myself at bases in new mexico at the time and as a young officer i
never lived on base housing, i off base as a single officer but i do think the housing is better than what we had in the 1990s over all. that does not mean we change our approach to demanding that h when there is a problem it is promptly fixed and fixed in a competent way. there are few things i think will help the bill of rights i think will help and allow us to have some leverage to work through these contracts and change the way things are managed to. i think we need to strengthen the role of the base commander so they have input and control with leverage of the local contacting. i think we need to in contracting. we need to improve communication for airmen so they have multiple ways to address problems and if they are not getting a response to help them in the chain of command and an id review underway that will identify other systemic fixes that the chief and i will deal with.
those are long-term. in the immediate term we have a command chain that has identified and gone through houses and we are focused on fixing the problems that are identified. >> secretary spencer would you agree this is still a viable option and should be continued? >> senator when the hearings finished one of the things i did was sit down with three of the authors of this actual solution back in 1996 and we spent time as to how what the solution would be. if you look at the history of where we have been and where we are now as an example the service secretaries met with a private venture partner once a month base commanders met with local private partner ventures once a month and the program was going along quite well. the fact of the matter is we did take our eye off the ball and we know that. to solve this problem we have what we need right now, 80% of it and we will let you know if
we need more as a backstop or call on you for the. this pris a viable solution. i was a single person also when i was in the marine corps and e have vivid memories visiting my married friends and the product is a much better product than we have now. does not me we need to fix this and i think the tools we have in the long-term will reflect that. >> thank you. same question. >> from everything i have learned today we need to continue to study the issue and get back with recommendations. i think any program over time needs adjustments and that is what we owe you in addition to the initiatives we are implementing for the chain of command to get back involved. >> i think the idea of a bill of rights is very important and one i think perhaps this committee may want to play a part in in terms of determining what it looks like. i also think the fact that you have an as a part of the discussion needs to be critical because i think there is something else that has to be
discussed and we haven't really talked about it, there is clear evidence of negligence perhaps fraud breach of contract with regard to the contractors anyway they have in some cases managed there go responsibilities. i think this may very will continue nto grow as you inspe the facilities. why have we not taken these contractors to court suing them on behalf of our families and our government? is the government etoo cozy wit these contractors to show them what they have done wrong? and perhaps immoral and in some cases outright illegal? >> senator and secretary. >> i think you are asking the same questions internally we need to look at the accountability aspects of this
peer i have walked through some homes where i have seen work done where i don't know whether it is just simple pure incompetence or some type of fraudulence or negligence. our immediate challenge is fixing the problems before us with regard to workorders and getting the families right. we need to take a deeper look at the aspects of this. >> will you commit to following through and reporting back what you find with regard to any anomalies that have to be pursued through legal channels? >> yes sir absolutely and with regard to retaliation that is one of the issues that troubles me. i had a discussion yesterday with one of the ceos about an employee and i was very clear stating that i wanted this matter looked into and i want to know what you find and d how this person will be held accountable if this behavior is ongoing. >> very good. secretary spencer same question. >> same answer we took a step forward and we are launching a naval audit to provide some
audit functions in certain areas where we have concern. >> thank you. >> we take all indications of fraud seriously, we investigate them and will act accordingly. >> thank you. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you >> thank you mr. chairman. the key thing coming out of this seems yto me that good intentions and emergency discussions and you know these kinds of reassurances aren't going to solve this problem. this strikes me as a structural problem and i want to focus in on the contract with these entities. one of the problems is the customer on those contracts is the navy or the army or the air force not the tenant. enforcement of the contract has
to rest on the navy army and air force, do you see what i am saying? there is a disconnect there. i presume these contracts are incentive based d and there are incentives for good performance is that correct? >> that is correct. second question can these contracts be modified in any way? some of them are really long- term so is there any reopener or opportunity to new renegotiate at all? >> it being a document of operation i would hope i'm not a lawyer but we plan to open it up and address it with the venture partners. >> i think athat would be important and the incentives it seems to me have to be important. there should be an approval rating of surveys of the tenants and if it is not above 90% i understand some of these contracts is 75% which is pretty low bar and they will get paid won't get paid if they don't meet that. that is the structural part that it iseems needs addressed >> i would agree. >> the question is, let's say
you had a perfect contract but if it is ndnot enforced or managed properly by the service then it is still not going to work and there has to be somebody either at the base, i don't know the answer to this, either at the base or pentagon who's responsible and who is accountable for the enforcement of this contract. my old management theory is you need one throat to choke, somebody one person who is accountable and i hope that is part of your discussion. >> yes sir i think there are multiple facets of this issue that have to be attacked and simultaneously. >> you could have a perfect contract but if it is not managed properly it won't work. >> absolutely. the first contract is the contract the leasing arrangement that comes in and signs. that needs to be cleaned up and it needs to reflect what is in
the bill of rights so we need to update that anone. then there is the contract at the which includes incentives and stuff like that. it should also reflect what we want to pursue in the bill of rights and it needs to reflect that as well. quality assurance people at each level and as we discussed we the qualified professional people performing work, the chief of staff and i heard of instances where the employee would come in to fix something in the home and he would have to pull out his iphone and watch a youtube video to learn how to go to work. this problem >> i do that too but i am not a professional. >> this problem have to be tackled at multiple levels and certainly with contractors and we have an important role we have to train our commanders and make sure we implement and r enforce the level arrangements vigorously. >> it seems to me technology can help us out here you can develop what i would call a where the tenant can take a
picture, send it and it would automatically go to the person responsible for managing the contract and d the contractor a the clock would start running and there would be a way of keeping track of whether that repair was made and how it was made and how soon it was made. this is something that is within the realm of our capability these days. >> most definitely and that is one of the three legs i was talking about and pay attention but we are having discussions with the venture partners right now about one of those. >> the word retaliation has come up several times and i don't quite understand that who is retaliating? are we talking about the military folks on the base retaliating who is retaliating? >> i have asked as i heard the testimony and that was concerning the thing that bothered me most was because ift people feel as though if they
act there will be retaliation and they will not report problems and we will not know what is going on. the fear that i identified and spoke with directly had to do with the housing office calling the first sergeant saying hey your guises guy is making problems over here. his first sergeant talk to his member and the airmen said exactly what was going on and he said if you need my help what can i do to help you? there is a fear of potential consequences if you complain ino some cases, i have not found a case where it has happened. i would also say you identified something important -- >> i like hearing that at these hearings. >> you mentioned third-party payment and ri think this is on of those the sources of frustration for our airmen. they sign a lease but their basic allowance for housing goes directly basically from
the air force to the contractor. if you were downtown paying her rent payment to your landlord and you had a problem with rats or mold, there is a direct relationship and if you don't get a satisfactory answer you can walk in and say i am not going to give you this until you efix this problem. there is a greater feeling of control and i think that lack of direct control is the reason why in this bill of rights we have included the right to withhold [ indiscernible - low volume ]. >> unless the customer which is you enforce the contract on behalf of of that tenant, that is a crucial part of this. i'm running out of time but for the record not now before the record could you all submit the copies of these contracts and they can be redacted for prior
dairy reasons? i would very much like to see the terms of how the incentives are structured and those kinds of things so if you could do that for the committee thank you, thank you for your testimony. you mr. chairman. good morning to all of our service secretaries and chiefs. we really see all of you together and i think that reflects the seriousness which this committee takes. this problem i i think we have all have the same reactions to the very troubling reports of unsafe and unclean conditions that contractor managed to housing and military bases around the country. the stories are terrible, lead paint, rat infestation, doctor's office visits were doctors plead with the family to move out for the sake of their child's health. my office has reached out to colonel donahue the 19th air wing commander to explore the issue there. it is not perfect by any means
but it doesn't seem to have the same systemic problems we have seen elsewhere. i have about 1000 units under private management, about two thirds of those are occupied and about two thirds of those report no problems or did not request inspection. that still leaves over 200 visual inspections that led to problems that are currently being remediated like moisture and lead paint and rodent infested station. i know you will work to make sure those conditions are remediated properly. i also want to commend the military family advisory that worked for the work they have done bringing the situation to everyone's attention. with ed to address that the utmost speed. we already ask a lot from our troops and military families to sacrifice the terms of their freedom and their comfort four hours. i think the least we can do is make sure they have a safe clean home when they get off duty or when they are downrange and their i husbands and wives and kids are back by
themselves. i think we have explored a lot of the fundamental issues already so i want to give our service secretaries and service chiefs an opportunity to speak directly to some of their troops and families around the world. i know you don't often get a chance to do this but this is a pretty high profile hearing and it will probably be highlighted on the armed forces network and on military family social media site and in your services respective media outlets. everyone on this panel has been a lieutenant or so i know you have all worked with junior soldiers sailors airmen and marines to address their housing concerns. obviously when you sit in the pentagon at the top of your service you can't have visibility into every single one of those but i know we do expect our young platoon leaders and platoon sergeants and chiefs to be on top of
their troops living accommodations. let's just speak directly to each one of those platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, squad leaders and team leaders, you do want them to be on top of the living situation of every one of their soldiers whether they live on base and post housing or they have a family is that correct? >> that is correct senator. i would say and that it has been true for the 10,000 years of military history a commander is a very special duty position and it is a privilege not a right. our duty as commanders is to be responsible for everything our units failed to do or succeed at. that is a long tradition which includes housing readiness training fighting doing whatever and that includes housing. i want all of the soldiers out there to know that their chain of command is now fully engaged
and it is our personal responsibility and we will be held personally accountable for the condition of their living quarters or houses. >> thank you. >> senator the same it is a privilege to lead our sailors in the united states navy. i agree with you that the center of gravity is that small unit leadership and it is not only a privilege to be a small unit leader a senior enlisted leader or junior officer but it is also one of the most rewarding things you can do to develop those people under your charge. that development starts with ensuring the fundamentals, the basics are being taken care of and that would include not only housing but also pay, food, safety, all of those things that are absolutely fundamental to human existence. i would say to all of our sailors and small unit leaders we are committed to making that relationship productive.
those leaders will be our s sailors advocates as we navigate through the recovery process. we will move out with urgency and we will establish a structure that will be sustainable so we don't find ourselves here again in five or 10 years. thank you. >> general miller. >> i would say it is not just the small unit leader but the entire chain of command. the nation expects marines to be the most lethal ready force on the face of the earth and we have a lot of things to do to achieve that but part of that is taking care of our families and where they live whether it be barracks or on base, government owned or out of town. this is part of our responsibility and that goes with being a commander and a leader. you are responsible for all of your unit and what it does and fails to do. i need everyone to understand why we are doing this as part of readiness we need our families ready and we need the camp to be ready if he is not
here or she is not living in a secure place so i personally commit we will get after this and i agree with secretary spencer that back in the day it was a different place in a different time and i think we took our eye off the ball and we have been busy the past 17 years as you know but that is no excuse. we've got to reeducate ourselves about ouwhat our responsibilities are as unit leaders and that includes taking care of the families. >> thank you senator. when i spoke with young command team groups senior officers and i tell them that a lot of things we do as team leaders we do the best we can. there is one thing we do that is nothing short of sacred duty and a moral obligation and i believe it is our mirror check and that is to make sure every airman we sent in harm's way is properly organize, train train equipped and well let. when we get the job done we
have taking care of them well while they have been gone. that is a moral obligation so my message to all airmen is that we are not going to stop until we and sure we have the system right to take care of them. >> thank you. if i could have 30 seconds i think it is important our troops here ikthis. as senator king said there have been reports of retaliation and reports of nonresponsiveness to complaints. i would like our service chiefs to speak directly to their troops and a sure us yes or no that there is zero tolerance for any retaliation if you complain about the conditions of your residence. >> absolute zero tolerance. >> >>same zero tolerance. >> general miller. >> onzero tolerance. >> there you have it. family members and troops on the front lines when you have these problems the top boss and they have said there ouwill be zero tolerance and immediate responses to your problems bring them forward and make sure you and your families have
a safe residence while we work through the bigger structural problems for now. >> thank you senator cotton. >> thank you chairman. secretary i want to start with you and i certainly agree that we need a tenant bill of rights we have heard a lot of really good testimony from all of you and a lot of good questions from my colleagues about using that as a tool to address the unresponsiveness between some of these contractors and people in the housing as well as the issue of who is the customer. i can tell you from personal experience people who have reached out to me both a concern that they there could be retribution when they raise issues and then also the issue of not having the contractor be adequately responsive because they are not the customer.
i want to switch years and address the other half of this because i think the other half of this is contract quality and enforcement of that contract and half of it is basic standards and enforcement of those standards. i want to understand the lay of the land across the we heard from a former mayor and a former city council mayor and county commissioner and i will tell you we have tools to deal with this, they are building codes and i want to understand across all of the service services what the current standards are. secretary in the army what is the building code standard that housing must be built to? is it governed by the local or state building code standard at the site? >> my understanding is under the umbrella agreement this privatize housing the commitment is that the
privatized housing would abide by local standards and it would be overseen by it as well. that said i would want to take a look at what those standards are to make sure they meet what our expectations are, we may well need higher standards and a common standard if you will. common standards and quality standards are the way to go. >> i think you are dead on and i think you're onto something here because there is a patchwork of standards across the united states and county and city we have secretary wilson is very familiar with air force base a few blocks from my house. there under the state or county standards. i do think it makes sense for all of us to look at the uniform standard that may be a
higher bar for more safety, for more comfort, former energy efficiency than what may be appropriate at the local level or what local politics might dictate. for the other service secretaries what is the current standard and what is your opinion on this sort of approach that the secretary just spoke to? >> to underscore the fact we need standardization it is my understanding we are held to a government standard a dod oriented government standard and my naval facilities organization oversees the enforcement of those standards on original construction. >> secretary wilson. >> senator the air force civil engineering center addoes overs uniform dod standard for construction. i think where we have had problems is in quality assurance of repairs and quality control and that is often a and we need to address that issue. >> for each of the secretaries once again who would be responsible in your service
branch for performing basic inspections to make sure either new or existing construction meets code and or meets the standards for repairs? >> senator i think if it is new construction it is likely our corps of engineers that would be responsible and i think in all cases whether it is that and repairs it would be the garrison chain of command and i would be remiss if i didn't say at the end of the day the chain of command of that soldier it would be extremely important and to secretary wilson's point we are looking at the same thing as we staff up all of our installations making sure we have sufficient quality control personnel at every step of the process involved in either doing 100% depending on the nature of the work order or spot checking if it is routine. >> secretary spencer. >> in the case of the navy sir
c seand icy and local housing office would be responsible parties. again just reverberating what the secretary said the quality the quality assurance aspect will be the real nuts and bolts to make sure we enforce what we have >> senator on your basis will have a housing management office that is as we mentioned under quality assurance. the civil engineering squadron with support from the civil engineering center assesses the compliance with code like items? >> i want to thank all of you for the commitment you made to senator cotton with regards to retribution. i also want to add what are we doing to make sure that commanding officers understand that tas well as sending that message to rank-and-file. ? i have had a least one constituent raise the issue
that they were afraid to bring some of these issues forward so what is the mechanism for sending that message loud and clear that we have an issue and if you raise issues you are going to be listened to and you will not be held to some form of retribution? >> the chain of command has mechanisms throughout the force to get the word out and it is well understood that any sort of action or retribution about anything you name it it is illegal and it is not just against policy and regulation it is illegal and you will be held accountable if you engage in any sort of action against anyone raising concern about anything. zero tolerance. >> if i could i would agree with the general but just to make sure we are clear it was a specific part of the message
that i sent to the navy to make sure we are particularly sensitive to this because perception can be as powerful as reality here and with all of the social media posts it was made clear that the inspection guidelines for visits to homes could be a part of this so we are being extremely sensitive to making sure that we made the legal requirements but also perception management are open to this. >> i agree with both the chief and in the white letter i sent out to all commanders directing the housing outreach with the intent to visit at the permission of the service member at their home, there is very clear guidance on what they can and cannot do and whether they refuse the visit or not as the general said any reprisal or anyone that makes an allegation is illegal. >> hthank you. >> thank you.
>> i would like to go back to the subject of contract by understand senator kane asked about contracts with private entities and requested copies of relevant contracts and i would like to see those as well. let me begin by directing this towards the service secretaries. i noticed in your written testimony you talked about the model this model of private housing private partnerships as you say it assumes the model assumes the contractors with sufficient oversight would continue to maintain the quality of these homes. i know the word assumes. do these contracts lay out a particular standard or are these private housing operators are they contractually obligated to maintain particular standards in these housing developments? >> yes sir i review them and
having read through them there are standards in there but i do think we need to look into them and renegotiate them and make sure the standards are high and sufficient and meet the bill of rights that we have outlined here today. >> the standards are there and we need to enforce the standards. again i am not a brilliant flash of the obvious we were not keeping our eye on the ball, the housing office needed to be the check and balance here, we rehave the processes n we have to live up to performing the processes. >> senator the contracts you have standards in them the issue is ensuring we enforce those standards when we have a contractor who is a subpar performer. >> so under the contracts who is in charge with enforcing the standards? is it you? who has the authority contractually to enforce these standards? >> in the case of the air force the civil engineering center as has a contract manager.
the housing management office actually has a dual chain of command at both the base commander and to the air force civil engineering center. >> senator we have the same structure but to go back to what senator king said ute one thread to throttle and that is the service secretaries. you will hear that the government is a passive partner in this but a passive partner does not mean ougetting involve in standards and enforcing what we have. we have the agreement now let's enforce the agreement and standards and that can be done at our level. >> this is supposed to be an overarching partner entity of oversight and i think it is insufficient at the army garrison level it would be through its department of public works doing that and we need to step back up and get more aggressive on that. one of the things we are proposing for example is 100% inspection of all work orders
life health and safety and 100% presence if someone is in or out of a home and spot checking aggressively all other work orders. again i would be remiss if i didn't add in the chain of command has a responsibility to check in on their soldiers if they are having problems with work orders or customer service. >> the bill of rights each of you has mentioned do you anticipate incorporating that bill of rights into these contracts with the service providersin so they are contractually enforceable? >> yes. >> yes senator that is what we are talking about. this is a draft but we want to fine-tune it to make sure it has the teeth in the contract agreement. >> i think we need to operate as asian allies operationalize key parts of it into the incentive structure hitting it at multiple levels and enforcing it that way.
>> going back to your oversight and we have seen reports that there has been significant cuts in the number of civilian employees who actually look at these installations run the installations and in some cases i've heard as much as 90% so even if you do have the contract you are telling you have the contractual authority to inspect these properties but it sounds as if there may have been nobody around to do it, is that accurate? >> this is one of the observations we have made and one of the things we might do is come back to you all for the direct hire authority to increase staffing. >> guesser it looks like over a period of time beginning around 2010 or 2012 we began making reductions anywhere from one person up to 10 people. we didn't go to zero is the best i can tell but we did make reductions and we are looking at how we draft that backup to ensure we can do adequate wally
control based on some of the i quality control based on some of the ideas i shared earlier. >> we have a similar situation. one of the bases i went to was one rated at performing well and when you have a contract housing office where the contractor is performing well you probably have enough people in that housing office to do the work but when performance starts to slide that is when it becomes over taxed. how do we put the people back into give support to the base commanders where it is really needed as i think will be the key decision? >> let me go back for a moment to the contractual arrangements. how do you anticipate changing or altering these contracts in order to ensure that the private providers are appropriately incentivized and penalize when necessary for maintaining adequate housing or responding in real time to complaints and generally doing
what they are supposed to be doing? look let's cut to the chase, i am a lawyer and we can talk all you want about ideals and aspirations and bills of rights. if you don't make them enforceable and you don't 'put them in contracts it won't go anywhere it it will be right back here in five years with people saying i know what they are but k no one will enforce i we don't want to do that so what will you do to make it enforceable so we are not back here doing this again? >> senator eti'm not a lawyer bi i do understand the incentives and how they are not set up properly. i think the answer to this is to get less quantitative about these incentives because those can always be gained. we need to put authority with the base commander so that mobile contractor knows that the base commander can say no that work is not good enough and it can impact their bottom line. >> senator look forward to the negotiations with the private partner ventures to see how we can come to a solution that
provides us what we need for the product we were required to be delivered. i can't give you exact right now but like i said in the whole bill of rights it will not work, it will be a puff piece unless we link that into the agreements whether at the local level or operating level. >> i completely agree with my colleague. >> thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you. senator peters. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank you all of you for being here and i appreciate your attention to this issue and serious attention that you are taking. i think it is important for us to step back and take a personal look at how this is impacting an individual and family and i want to recognize there are two folks in the audience here today from rachel to patrick who is a soldier stationed at fort rack in north carolina is here with her husband calvin and i had the honor of meeting with them and
in depth about the trouble they went through and really kind of a nightmare they went through in relation to their home and. their home at fort bragg has been recently deemed unlivable, they were living in a home that was deemed unlivable which is pretty outrageous. it was infested with termites, it had a severe outbreak of black mold which caused significant health issues for the family. i'm sure you have seen some of these pictures when you visit fort bragg. thank you for being there but for the others this is a picture of their home. it is described as black mold all through the wood here and frames along the floor and along the beams. it is pretty despicable as to where they were living and it is no wonder that they have had some significant health impacts particularly with calvin with st respiratory issues related to that. what gets me is i see this and then i hear from contractors who say maybe we should adjust
the be a h formula to provide more money for this and this is a public picture that was out this is the landlord for this property who has 100 acres and this is a pretty nice dining room for a landlord, that is pretty amazing of a picture. it doesn't sound like he is earning too much or at least maybe thinking i can't maintain this property while i die with my friend that this incredible mansion on 100 acres. it brings back visions of the term landlord back in the medieval days when the landlords lived like this and other folks lived like this. these folks are our soldiers, sailors airmen, marines, they are serving our country and serving it with honor, this is simply unacceptable for us to treat them this way. her husband calvin is someone
who is now suffering from health issues and respiratory issues. he told me this morning what he wanted to do was join the army, his wife was talking about them having children and he would join the army but now because of the respiratory issues that may be a result of living in this condition he will be able to join the army and served his country something he wants to do. i ask moving forward and all of you have made a great commitment but what will we do about the people suffering from health issues as a result of living in these conditions in the past? let's not forget has a what has already happened. how do we hold these landlords accountable for health issues? now we have people in tricare and other health and we have heard instances where children may have been impacted as a result of living in these kinds of facilities. what will we do? what are we going to do to make sure those who were harmed in the past that we hold these
landlords accountable for what they did to some of our wonderful service members? >> thank you first of all for sharing that and i want to think the family for coming forward and all of the families i have spoken with again wholeheartedly apologize that they have to live in such despicable conditions. it is unconscionable that that would happen. it is troubling the story you could say first of all the first concern is to the health of the soldiers and family members. we have talked with our doctors and i spoke about this at fort bragg at the hospital and i encouraged them to immediately see their primary care provider if they are not getting any immediately after this hearing we will make sure we get them connected to the right people as need be. i think in the long run you are right one thing the army is doing is making sure we
contract the houses and make sure we know who has lived in those houses year over year over year and of course track the medical status of our soldiers and dependence and make sure we understand if there is any relationship to the long haul and then pursue aggressively something cause by negligence of the private contractor to hold them liable. the army will take care of its own we will make sure we take care of their needs medically and healthwise. >> you will hold these landlords accountable? >> absolutely. i think they are the first records and they have a responsibility to maintain quality homes and in that case clearly the homes i saw that the senator join me with down at fort bragg mathey were not doing that and in other places the chief and i and other members we have seen they are not maintaining the quality they are responsible for. >> thank you. >> senator i reverberate what the secretary just said and first of all we have one of the
best healthcare systems around for our sailors and soldiers, marines airmen guardsmen and their families. that is number one is their health. number two is knowing what you're talking about doing which is holding accountability. the master operating agreements have the requirements of a product they haven't delivered and they will be held to that standard in the contract. >> thank you. >> with respect to the health issues the most important thing for a member whose health has been effect it is to go to the treatment facility and get evaluated and treated and have a documented. each of our hebases have legal assistance to help family members identify what their options are and to be able to work those through with respect to a claim towards this provider which raises another issue and i will defer to the chief on this. wh >> central to your question too which is one that we know and how do we know it and how did we not see the breakdown in trust that was occurring and what are we doing about it to make sure it can't happen
again? what we are putting in place is there are five methods of what i call avenues thof alarm when there is safety or security issues like you bring up that have to generate command and follow-up. first you go to your management office your advocate which will trigger action and follow-up. the second is you get your command team first sergeant or commander that will trigger action and follow-up. the third is you go to your medical provider and say i think i have a health concern and it is associated with my home, but can't stop within the medical community it has to get there and trigger an alarm. i visited a navy family living on an air force base and i was concerned that they were told your navy so you have two good we navy, not on ours if they are on our base they are hours that we will take care of them within the air force chain and i know my colleagues feel the same way about their bases. the final is a 24 hour hotline they can call.
this morning unknown to anybody in my stop i called it and checked in to make sure it is up and operating and that the checklists are there and it is operating. we have work to do but those avenues have got to get to the command chain of leadership so we can follow up and take action. >> thank you. >> thank you mr. chair and i want to thank everybody for coming forward today and secretary spencer i think you painted it quite appropriately that you're glad to be here but you wish you weren't here. this is a topic we should not be addressing in today's age. i was a young military spouse many many years ago married and we had similar issues, they are not nearly as bad as what we have seen from our families, i remember living in a tent at fort benning georgia and the roaches were horrible.
they were so bad that my husband and i did have to move into another set of borders quarters. they couldn't get rid of them and we had to do it at our own expense. i thought that would have been alleviated 20 or 25 years later, obviously it has happened. early 2000 living on eglin air force base the army unit belonged to fort benning but we were living on eglin and the mold problems in florida are horrible. the guys living in our barracks out there on the ranger camp subjected to holes in the walls. you can see daylight. it took a lot of arguing between the service branches to get that taken care of. this shouldn't happen folks. we really owe it to our servicemembers to do better for them and their families. i am thankful you understand that and i am just sorry it took their situations coming to
this level to be taken care of when it could have been taken care of at a much lower level and in a more expedient manner. i am glad we have the opportunity to straighten this out. my fear is that we will raise the issues and have these discussions but we won't see the necessary follow-through. do we have a timeline? i would like to hear from all of you after we talked about the tenant bill of rights and we've talked about other types of actions that can be taken but what is our timeline moving forward? when can we expect to see this? when will those corrective actions be taken? >> thank you for your comments and your service as well. i think we look at this in terms of the immediate and the immediate challenge now is loto knock down all of the safety
work orders happening right now on all 49 army installations and get those resolved then take care of the other work orders as well. i think in the midterm what we need to do is at least with regard to the army staff of quality can quality control and make sure we have adequate independent objective reporting systems on our army bases to make sure we understand soldier satisfaction with customer service being provided and a few other things there and in the long-term we need to finalize the bill of rights and look for input from congress and then begin negotiating that and all of the other pieces will be discussed to make sure we get it contractually bound for the long-term. there are other long-term issues and the bottom line is that this problem didn't come up overnight it evolved over years and i think it will take some time to get it finally resolved and in place and
maintained. it will need close supervision so it doesn't fall back off the radar. >> secretary do we have a timeline? what do you envision and what you think is realistic? what can we tell our military families when this will be implemented? >> i want to believe it will finalize in the next few weeks with your input and then begin discussing with the contractors the chief and i have already had discussions with them ma generally in favor of principles we had outlined two weeks ago but i think it is the hard work of getting lawyers and making sure we change all of the agreements. i would hope that we would be able to do this in a few short months and make sure it is all in place and lined up then we will work against these new standards and contractual obligations. we have our chains of command in place with the right people to make sure we do the new proper oversight. >> senator if you would just
crews the web thand look for communities whether right here in the district of columbia or states, their bill of rights almost every single case i have looked at each item in the bill of rights was backed with a code, that is what we have to do in that light is to put the teeth in the agreement that references the terms that we are giving them. i agree with the secretary and i want to make sure we get it in its fundamental ambasis for your all's input and families input etc. then sit down with the private partner ventures. i will tell you some of the things we will ask for will probably take bondholder concurrence so there are parties that have to be addressed. i would say 90 days is what i would be looking at. >> thank you. >> we concur on this. >> i appreciate that very much. now i thought it was really interesting senator peters bringing up the landlords,
truly a different situation centuries ago but it begs the question, we know that the garrison commander typically makes the determination each quarter on the percentage of the quarterly incentive or bonus payments that the private partner landlord receives, what is that average percentage that those landlords are receiving? that private partner, do we know what that is and can that be presented here today? >> i was just going to say we have 32 different agreements and different contractors, two of those have no incentive fees, 13 of 32 don't have a garrison commander evaluation,
17 of 32 do have a base commander evaluation component and where we have it is generally between five and 10% of the total fee influenced by the base commander, and we don't think that is sufficient. >> thank you. >> i interpreted the question differently senator in that what are we paying incentive fees? we do hours at the regional level which is here is an example of the ability to award the incentive at the base level but in our levels we are somewhere around 75-80% of so incentives paid and it should be noted that those incentives that are not paid stay in the system and go into the sustainment fund, the reserve fund? >> my time is expired i apologize. i am assuming ithat reserve fu is held in trust or is it used? >> it is held in trust with an agreement on how it is used. >> thank you. >> , we will get you that
information as well. >> thank you. >> thank you mr. chairman. before the e previous hearing i sent out letters to all sides of the private housing companies that testified two weeks ago to get some more data and background information on what was going on. hi they have since provided my office with the requested documents that i have asked for in this letter and representatives from three of those companies have met with my staff to explain how their business model works. the companies summarized 600 page complex secret financial agreements into a single powerpoint slide that clearly laid out how they actually don't make much money and the only receive their fees after setting aside money for operating and maintenance expenses. meanwhile they also claimed that because people don't have to live on base they are properly incentivized to provide excellent service.
if you believe the companies it all emakes sense on paper. the market works perfectly and there is no problem and the incentives are arall working, t market works and nothing to see here. let me just start by asking secretary spencer do you agree that the housing market for base housing is working properly? would you like to start? >> clearly it is not working we have too many problems. it is evidence of what is coming up in our town halls and what this committee heard from the families sitting behind us it is not working. >> there is no doubt about that do you agree? >> totally agree. >> so the market is not working as intended and why isn't it working? the basic idea behind what it takes for the market to work is there has to be rules and
someone that is willing to enforce the rules. last week the army personnel chief told us in a military personnel subcommittee that the terrible conditions in which military families have been living are a leadership failure plain and simple. do you all agree with that assessment? >> yes ma'am i think the chain of command over the past 20 years has slowly walked away from being involved in the housing of our soldiers and families. >> does everyone else agree? i will get you on the record there. >> senator i think there is more than that. i think the financial incentives as they are structured do not incentivize ta the right behavior. >> see you are saying both contracts are bad but let's just start with the enforcement part of this which is also a problem in a leadership problem is that right? >> yes. >> leadership both in the military side and also the local leadership of the
contract. >> but it is leadership from the military site that is enforcing it not the contractor. >> that is true but we i would say where we don't have problems at bases local leadership and management quality really matter and that is the biggest indicator of quality housing is a good local manager by the housing contract. >> fair enough but i just really have to bear down on this point, if no one will enforce the rules then i understand exactly how incentives work and the e way incentives work is you improve your profits by not delivering the product you promised to deliver. we've got to look at both of these, the leadership on how we will enforce the rules and whether the rules themselves are adequate. i take it for what you have already said with leadership problems but we also have a problem on the rules correct? >> i do want to make a point and something the chief
reminded me of. saying you're timeframe not responsible, you should not conduct inspection of the homes, so we unw not conduct inspections of the homes, so, we subsequently unwound that, and are now giving different guidance to the chain of command to be involved. >> who gave those orders? we can talk leadership, let's move up a little. somebody issue those orders, it didn't come from the contractor >> assistant secretary. >> and assistant secretary of the department of the army? so to don't enforce the contract. in effect? >> it said you are not responsible for conducting inspections by >> who will enforce the contract? >> we agree. >> okay, so there's a problem with god, we need better rules, and we need better enforcement of those rules, i'm putting together a reform bill that will enhance oversight, protect tenants, we are working on a tenant bill of rights here, the
committee can put all of the right rules in place that it wants, and if the leadership doesn't enforce those rules, at the end of the day, we aren't going to be delivering for our military personnel. enforcement, not just binding contract, but enforcing the contract, is absolutely critical. i want to dig down on one part of that, and on some reports of potential fraud, the committee has received reports from military families who are being charged with things like cover replacement, upon moving out, but the carpets are not actually replaced. did the services conduct any inspections when the houses are in between tenants? to make sure that the providers are actually complete the work that they are charging the military families for? do we know the answer to that? >> i can tell you right now, but i will give you the answer. i for the same thing, and going
for one of the things i said earlier today as we want to have 100% quality control in any transition, moving or moving out, because we've heard several reports. >> six terry spencer, did you want to add to that? it's technically a senator of the housing office, the local housing office, again, oversight whether they do it or not is now front and center. >> so they have the authority to do it, they just aren't doing it. and secretary wilson, did you want to add anything to that? >> we do a 10% sampling, it's not 100% look at the turnover time, i also would like to say that >> i'm sorry, 10% sampling, what have you found in the 10% sampling? >> i would have to get you >> if it's a problem or not, what kind of follow-up do you do? if you find that there's a problem? >> if there's an indication of fraud, we take that seriously and turn it over to the investigators for fraud. >> okay. i appreciate that, but i will say it again, until we get some real enforcement, on these rules, we can write all the
rules we want here in congress but we got to rely on you folks to make sure they actually get enforced. thank you. >> thank you, senator warren. >> thank you, mister chairman and senator warren if they want to be one of the few areas that you and i are in strong agreement with each other, i look forward to working with you on it, and thanks for the leadership coming in today on this important issue, and for the families who are presented here, some of which testified a few weeks ago, we've been talking a lot about landlords, but based on hearing the stories, they select their slumlords, and i can think about we've been talking about the commander, i can't imagine being a commander, someone in my unit, whose family is dealing with these types of situations where the kids are sick, they end up in a hotel, not knowing today, where they will be sleeping the next night, then, the children, their family, the uncertainty, the lack of responsiveness, the impact that this has not just on welfare of those individuals, but on the
readiness of the unit. the ability for them to have that fighting mission. this is ultimately a commander responsibility, and you mentioned, secretary, how some guidance in the past moves in that direction, it's probably that way and most of the services a few years ago, we had an incident with energy bills pop up at one of the bases in arizona, and when i started to look into it, i talked to the local commander a feeling of, that's between the tenant and the landlord, and that the contract that they have. we have to get away from this. we got to move back into the commander is having responsibility, having the ability to enforce, the ability to withhold payments, and make sure that the health and well- being of our members and families are taking it into ccount. it seems like right now, the commanders to varying degrees, or even totally out of the loop on some basis, or somehow involved at some basis, so it's very patchwork, from the testimony today. i also am concerned from some
of the testimony from a few weeks ago, that we are hearing today, the first line of advocacy is the housing office. in many cases, these families testify the housing office felt it was a feeling that they were in cahoots with the contractors. and there was no real accountability or oversight. so since this has been raised, has there been any looking out what's going on in the housing offices and holding individuals accountable that maybe had these issues webrought to their attention, but they did nothing and they were responsive, do you have cases of that? has anybody been held accountable in these housing offices? they are not there advocates according to the families. can i get an amen? yes? >> what we did find in the housing offices was insufficient numbers of people and insufficient support, and likewise, from the civil engineering center, insufficient technical assistance from civil engineers
when it's required. i think with respect to your point on commander responsibility, your absolutely spot on. it is a commander needs to be able to assess, they have to have access, and some commanders were being told by contractors that they couldn't bring in their environmental health folks and take a look at a home, that's unacceptable. they need to be able to direct that our repair is not sufficient, they need the adequate support in their housing offices and civil engineering squadrons, they need to be able to withhold payment, they need to be able to impact the fees that are paid. commander has that kind of authority, i am confident that they will start to get responsiveness. >> to follow up on that, what you need in order to have that authority? does that take an act of congress? is that happening at the service level? >> i don't think we need an act of congress for that, i think we are going to have to change some of the contract, and we may need a bit of backstopping from the committee as we go through those negotiations.
scenic secretary spencer? >> i couldn't underscore that better, we need a backstop as we go to negotiations. with them knowing that you are behind us, we have a pulpit to start the negotiations with. >> thank you. >> i agree as well. >> great, thank you. the other issue that came up in the hearing was, it's been mentioned today, nsis families having to have extraordinary out-of-pocket expenses, some related specifically to fixing their own problems, that the private companies should have done, some related to medical bills. are you also tracking? is there a new mechanism for tracking out-of-pocket expenses of families? and what mechanism they need for them to be reimbursed from the failures of this? >> senator, they should be paying out-of-pocket. expenses for something that is a responsibility of the private contractor. i've heard those stories as well, again, it's reprehensible
that that has happened. that's why in the bill of rights we changed some things, no longer will we accept nonrefundable pet fees, is one thing, and there are other fees out there, we need to address, and likewise, in terms of with pcs if they move in or move out of the house, having a third- party army personnel on the spot, to arbitrate any issues so they don't arbitrarily keep their ba age, claiming that there is excessive damage to the home. >> i wouldn't want to hang all solutions on a new shiny object, but in we were talking about communications whether it be an app, whatever, having a record of communications is stage one, so o one we can trac and advocates and appropriate offices and people of responsibility are on record that this is an issue. >> thank you. >> i think my colleagues have covered this pretty well. >> great, i'm almost at the
time, but i want to go back and follow up on my last statement of, i think you guys need to look at the housing offices and the housing advocates, and what their role has s,or hasn't been not just technical issues, but again the stories and testimonies we had, for specific individuals, in those cases, not everybody, but what has happened, even if they are undermanned, but them not playing a proper role and not being advocate for the families. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, mister chairman, i want to thank the chairman and ranking member for following up on this issue, and all the military families who are here today, i want to thank the general for visiting with me yesterday, and really giving me a very candid and determined view of the extent and magnitude and complexity of this issue, and like the panel today, he was recent and deliberate, but i sense, in his view, what i
hope you share, which is a sense of outrage. and anger. that we have come to this point, now, i'm just a country boy from connecticut, but i was a prosecutor for a good part of my career. and what i have seen about landlords and about others, who may break the law, is that they understand money, particularly withholding of money, and they understand prosecution. there have been references here to fraud, i think there are clear indications of fraud. i would be even more emphatic, given another setting. but i would recommend that these issues be referred to the u.s. department of justice.
for investigation. what has happened here, his criminal. it may not be criminal in the sense of provable beyond a reasonable doubt, in a courtroom against a specific company, or individual. i will leave that to the department of justice. but i would respectfully recommend that each of your services ask the department of justice to be involved in an immediate, intensive review of whether a criminal investigation is appropriate, or civil investigation. because that is the enforcement. that these landlords will understand. they are landlords, or maybe slumlords, but they counted on this cash cow, it is a risk-free
cash cow, very few landlords in the country have tenants who are obligated to pay, for decades, atliterally decades, without any real accountability. that has been their situation, up to the present. so, i would like to ask each of the service secretaries who are here today, would you consider asking the united states department of justice to be involved? >> senator, i think we should pursue any allegation of fraud, and hold people accountable if that's the case. we will certainly take us back to our lawyers and make sure we approach it the right way and aggressively. >> senator, we are underway with naval audit, and the way the system works, was unable audit as the data, then doj would be involved. >> for the air force, the
office of special investigations, that is the initial investigation, and then refers matters to the u.s. attorney and the district words involved, and we take allegations of fraud very seriously, i'd be happy to talk to you about that more privately. >> i would be happy to talk to each of you privately, but let me point out, that the procedures for audit, an internal investigation take a lot of time. and i would, again, respectfully suggest that this procedure ought to be expedited, and is a former u.s. attorney, i can tell you, i would respect going directly to maine justice, with this issue, a civil division, or the criminal division, and if we really care about this issue, let's recognize it for what it is, and provide you with that backstop. because, at the end of the day, what they will respect across the table from you, and it won't be you, it'll be people
down the chain of command, talking for you and representing you, what they will respect is, the hammer of fair and effective law enforcement, behind you. and i think, if this problem had just arisen, if it were new, or novel, maybe following the normal audit procedure would make sense, but we are dealing here with a problem that has festered for a long time. i think that has been the overwhelming testimony. here today. and i appreciate your being willing to talk to me, and perhaps others of the committee about an immediate referral to the department of justice, i'm going to be formalizing that request in a letter that i hope to send to you within the near future. i wanted to ask about the
health impact. i heard from a woman, a military family, who lived in housing in new london at the sub base, there, from april 2014 to august 2018, she explained that the maintenance officer was responsible, responsive to some of the maintenance request, like clogs drains, when she reported mold, in the bathtub, they were advised to keep washing and cleaning the mold, after every shower. previous child caught pneumonia, and shortly afterwards suffered a stroke, only a week before her first birthday, she acknowledges she will never be able to determine whether the stroke was caused by the mold, in the apartment, but i'm
asking, now, about the health effects, on children, and whether you have been in touch with the va, because some of these individuals may no longer be involved in active military service, to determine whether these environmental hazards and toxic substances encountered during military service can be compensable and treatable under the va health plan. i will go down the line again beginning with you. >> before we go down the line, we are going to adhere to our time limit, >> i'm sorry, mister chairman, i'm happy to take those answers in writing, and adhere to the time. >> thank you. >> senator, happens to be in addition to a good member of this committee and the chairman, the personal subcommittee, years of these
issues on a daily basis, >> thank you mister chairman, thank you all, we had a judiciary committee markup, and one other commitment otherwise i would have been here to hear your testimony, and i'm only going to ask one question, i want to start by thinking secretary asper, he was down at fort bragg, i was with him on friday, we had an opportunity to visit, two houses, the bloods and blankenship's, a little 18-month-old, housing conditions, we heard stories from a very empowered wife, who was standing up for other people, who were intimidated and were afraid to come forward. i frankly believe that we have somehow drifted with a program that started out well and 1996, worked well for a while, but now we are on the wrong place. i, for one, am not prepared to simply place blame on any link in the chain, because my guess
is, the housing providers are at fault, the command is at fault, the department is at fault, and congress is at fault for taking their eye off the ball. the one thing that i tell everybody when i get before a committee hearing, if you're in north carolina and living in a house that has a military housing that has unacceptable conditions, if you haven't gotten the right reaction, from your command, call my office. there will be casework and i guarantee you it will move to the top of the stack. i also want to thank general millie for coming in and talking about the plans, and secretary spencer for the phone call that we had, i will have discussions with all of you over time, but we've had, i'm not going to let go of this, for the remaining congress, we will have another oversight hearingi with the charming's blessings, to see where the progress is. and i'm not talking about next year. i'm talking on short intervals, because if you look at this, this is not rocket science.
we can fix this, and it starts by doing what every branch has said they are going to do, they will go out and knock on every door, and request permission to come in and see things that they think are unacceptable. many of them will be okay, some of them won't. all of them will be identified. i would ask the question, as probably less of a question, but more of a commitment from you all, it's been brought to my attention that some of the housing providers go to these young people, these are young, they may be the first lease they've ever signed. and they go to these big organizations, some of the ones are small, these organizations waive a nondisclosure in front of them, and see if you sign this nondisclosure agreement, there may actually be some sort of a bonus or a payment that you will be entitled to if you don't bring up what may be inadequate housing. that's how i read it. i don't know if you are aware of this. this is what i would like to find out if we can do immediately. resend every one of these that have been signed.
because it looks to me, i don't mean to be cynical, but this is in practice by the housing providers, they better come up with a good reason for having somebody sign onto this, because i've been a landlord before, it would never occur to me to say, i want you to sign away your right to say you are living in inadequate conditions. i don't know if that makes sense to any of you, i would ask you to go down the line because god forbid you say it does, i can't imagine on any level, why it would make sense to have a new tenant, these young kids, asked to sign this agreement, not understanding the implications of it. in my view, if any of these agreements are enforced, i expect them to be rescinded over the next 30 days. over the next 30 days, if they aren't rescinded, i want to know what housing company wants to come before me and tell me why it makes sense. is telling the business right white makes sense,, the reason why is for the good of the tenant. i love to have a conversation, we'll have it in open and in my office, i guarantee you, this is got to stop. all of you have
responded the way i would expect you to, as the great leaders that you are, we have drifted. i can't imagine any of you would have knowingly allowed the conditions that we have seen, actually persist. but now i expect everyone of you to be on the tip of the spear to fix it. that everybody in command better be in touch with their folks, that they've been entrusted, to take care of, they better fix it. they better applaud people who are coming forward, and these communities and stepping up, and being the ones that are saying, this is wrong. this is not the way we treat our men and women in uniform, and i know you all agree with this. this has got to be on short dribbles, this isn't something we come back to next year and say, have you done over the last year. we will have meetings in my office, we will have as many hearings as the chair will allow me to have, i want to see and to and where you are making progress, but, over the next 30 days, i i want to see every one of these canceled, unless you want to walk into my office
with the housing provider that thinks it's a good idea, and build a case for me changing that position. thank you all for being here, the last thing i would ask every member of the senate to do, if you've got a military installation anywhere near, anywhere in your state, go visit them. i'm going to go knock on a few doors down there, and done at fort bragg, i won't do it announced, i'm going to walk on the door and do exactly what you guys are doing, and want to knock on the door and taken a come in and take a look around. and i better, it better be trending in the right direction. because you all know, i got a history of supporting you, i have confidence in everyone of you, i know you can fix this problem, but this has to be a top priority. and these folks, better make sure the housing providers better make sure that unacceptable business practices, i don't know how to do your jobs in terms of waging war, but i know how to run a business. this kind of business practice actually sets off a series of
thoughts in my mind that make me wonder just how far these businesses have drifted. we are going to find them, and the ones that have an address this if i find them, there's going to be consequences. thank you all for being here, and thank you for your commitment to taking care of our men and women in uniform. >> think you, senator. >> take you very much, mister chairman. i want to thank all of you for being here, to have all of our services represented, in this way, emphasize this importance of the issue, and your commitment to resolving the problems, i want to thank you, secretary, for coming to see me yesterday, and secretary spencer, discussing with you some matters later on today, thank you for responsiveness, as i said, here, listening to all of you, and the questions, it is astounding some of the additional revelations. i want to thank senator tillis for raising the issue of these nondisclosure contracts, this
go down the line, is this news oliver secretaries? the first time i heard about it was in the meeting that senator and i had with spouses at fort bragg, and i just don't understand it, i've never heard of it before in my life, i rented my share of apartments, we definitely need to dig into this, there's no reason why people should be signing nda's. >> exactly. t >> secretary wilson? >> senator, in my business basis, i did not come across anyone who told me about one of those, but we are going to go back and check. >> think you. i think that is simply astonishing. the tenants would be forced to sign these kinds of documents, and it may be one of the reasons that we hear from the tenants that there is a fear of reprisal, if they even say anything, so, i would very much appreciate, i share the concern about these kinds of contracts, i want to thank you, secretary wilson, for pointing out to us,
i was taken with your acknowledgment about trust, loss of trust, of the airmen and women, that their housing concerns will be addressed, and fixed, is that a concern that is acknowledged by the other secretaries? the loss of trust of the servicemembers? >> yes. >> so, what would be, i'll start with you, what would be the first thing that you would do that would directly go to your servicemember, to tell them that you are going to listen to them, and that you are going to fix their concerns related to housing? >> one of the things that the chief and i are going to be doing over the next week or possibly two weeks, is to send out a clarifying guidance from us of what we expect from commanders, and first church all the way up through the chain of command. what their responsibilities and obligations are. i think you rebuild trust by doing what you say you are
going to do. and being responsive and holding people accountable. so, i don't think it's something that i don't think it's something that can be done with one communication. >> i realize that. was the first you are going to communicate? >> communication directly to the chain of command on what we expect. >> and with the chain of command gets, will that get to your servicemembers? so they know your chain of command is going to have other expectations as to how they should behave? >> yes. we will atbe broadcasting that widely. >> secondary spencer? >> right after the initial hearing, the cnl issued the admin letter which laid out exactly what we are doing going forward, the commandant wrote the white letter, part of our knocking on every door, or visit, to be completed by april 15. there is a second avenue to that, and this is also the trust that has been lost with the private partner venture provider, now the ball is in their court, but that's
something that all us service secretaries are coordinated, through communication and education. >> secretary esper? >> senator, it's a combination communications, we issued an execution order within wdays o visiting fort meade to talk about what our expectations are, the chain of command sustain these communications, the leadership, both uniformed and civilian are critical, but we have neto do the hard work o renegotiating contract and amending the bill of rights and having that sustained attention to this issue. >> if i were tenant, the first thing that would impact me as to the seriousness that you will take the issue of housing, would be a piece of paper that bill of rights as a tenant. i would ask you, when is the timing for the bill of rights, which will be sent? >>t the three of us took a cut of the draft, you are reviewing it now, we had rested earlier in, i would say, diminished
expectation, probably 90 days, you might ask why so long, we will sit down with the private public venture partners to ensure we put the teeth in the agreement, and in some cases this might get bondholders involved in third parties, so i want to manage expectations that it might take 90 days. because we would like to get it right. as you are formulating the bill of rights, are you contacting, is it a group like the family military network? are they being engaged in formulating, helping to formulate the bill of rights? >> i don't know, i know my office was reaching out to similar representatives, of the military living in houses. >> it will be important to have the military families voices be heard, as you develop the tenants bill of rights, and then there's been a lot of w focus on the enforcement aspect of it, and i want to reiterate, how important that element is,
so i hope you're going to put in place some specific ways that enforcement will occur, and that your tenants will know what they need to do to kick off the current enforcement that we would expect from each of you. senator, i want to thank you, that he visited barracks, when was that? >> last summer. >> so you talk specifically with them about their housing issues? >> i can't recall at the time whether we did. i think what you may be referencing is earlier, last year in october, we were at family conference, chief of staff, and an issue came up about schofield barracks, with regard to a particular home, which we immediately dispatched a team to look at the problem and remediate. >> so, senator wilson, thank you. i think that with all of the communications that will occur in a housing, you will hear more about this as you visit the base, and i think it's important for all the secretaries in particular to see firsthand, secretary, you
mentioned that as you are developing a way for people to withhold their rents, but if their rents go directly to the housing agencies, or how are you going to fix that with regard to withholding of rent? >>ri senator, there are a coupl of different ways we are looking at. this is one of the things that gets into the implementation of the bill of rights, but one of the ideas is an escrow account that is decided at the local levels, so it's not a big administrative hassle, to be able to get your rent back, if you recorded a problem and it hasn't been taken care of. >> thank you. thank you mister chairman. >> thank you, senator. let me make one last comment here. i want to be sure everyone understands, this is going to be the last hearing that we will have, i've talked about this, and the next one we've already had with residents, we've had with government, but we haven't had a hearing with
the contractors. that would eebe next. so, for the purpose of this meeting, i'm going to ask the chairman of the subcommittee to chair the remainder of the meeting. now it goes. >> senator shane? >> thank you, and thank you all for rsbeing here, i want to beg first to make sure i understood, because i came in in the middle of the questioning, he was suggesting that everybody go out and personally visit some of the housing, on bases that are under your control, is that an intent of everyone here, to do that? >> yes, it is, i visited a few bases, the chief of staff has, the vice chief, the
undersecretary, and of course undergoing right now is 100% inspection in the housing units that will be complete in another week and a half or so. >> same with navy, we've been up to three of the hampton roads communities, cherry point, the office is also on the west coast, down the golf, we are out there visiting, i know the commandant and the cnl are also underway. >> and you're doing 100% of all of the housing? >> april 15. >> in my case, i personally went to tinker with dale and shaw, the chief went to maxwell and keesler, we also did a directed review of all military family housing that was finished by 1 march, and the result of that are in the record. >> if i could clarify, the marine corps, these people, we can't invade the privacy of their property without their ha permission, so what our commanders have been directed to do, is to ask the member, both on and off base, if they lease their property, not a
homeowner. if we can visit them. if they refuse, which is their prerogative, we would ask that we can interview them over the phone about the condition of their property. if they refuse that, then we will try to provide information, do you have these phone numbers, here's the process, if you have an issue or you have a problem with your landlord, tell me what the problem is, we will engage with the landlord, so that is where we are, so it's going to take some time, and we've got just like everyone at the table, members that live on other services, bases, because we do schools together, and we have education together, and we have joint bases together, so it's going to take some time to scope this out, but i believe you all recognize based on today in the hearing that we've known there were problems, we thought it was more isolated, i don't thing we had an idea of the magnitude so we will scope and skill that get back to you in the next hearing. >> to get a sense of that, we have a similar program to the
marine corps as you would expect, to date, we've done on our way to 100% contact, we have 62,000 people contacted, of the 62,000, about 900 have requested, agreed to have visits done to e their homes, a those visits are in progress, they give you a sense of the scale involves. >> thank you. i want to go back to a report that came out, before many of you were in your positions, but in 2015, the pentagon's inspector general conducted a series of military housing inspections to determine if facilities were in compliance with dod. and what that report found was that there were significant deficiencies in homes at five different bases, including dwellings that were built or renovated under the mhp program. have any of you seen that inspector general's report? are you aware of it?
is there anybody on the panel who has seen it? and is aware of it? >> i'm not aware of it. >> i've gone back and looked at a few reports, i don't know if i've seen that exact one, but there was a dod, a jail, i've looked through three or four reports. >> i'm aware of it, it came out in december 2015, i became the chief in august, a couple months afterwards, look through it, and appropriate agencies within the army have worked on it. the army tracked all of the actions and all the deficiencies, they've been working on for a while. it's clear it was not a good report, it was in the negative, and there's a lot of work yet to be done. i think the secretary said this entire issue is effective a decade, almost 20 years, of multiple problems, this is not going to be solved in 60 days, 90 days, this is going to be a
concerted effort, multiple hearings, over time, it will take a considerable level of effort by all of us at this table of congress, and all the chains of command in the contract to get after this thing. it will take a sustained effort. >> i appreciate that, i think everybody who is hearing about this issue understands that it's taking a long time to get here, so it will take us a while to get out, i guess the question that i've got is, when we've got an iv report like that, that raises the issue, it's then surprising to me to hear so many people who appear to be unaware of the extent of the problem. so i'm trying to figure out, how we make sure that information from a report like this gets carried over from one generation of leaders to the next. so that continues to be addressed. you spoke to the fact that the army is continuing to address what was in that report. is that something that, again,
if people are unaware of it, clearly you haven't done anything to address it, but how do we make sure that this kind of report gets shared and addressed as leadership changes? >> in the case of the air force, we track all open recommendations, monthly, and we have corrective action plans on every open recommendation, our standard, now, in the air force, is that there must be a corrective action plan for any ig finding within 30 days, and that our job objective is that 90% of them be closed within 12 months of the finding. we were aware of some systemic problems, particularly related to construction quality and a lot of the impact of water and moisture, and mold and so on, at four of our bases that were very significant. and the construction on those continues. >> senator, same for navy, i said i was unaware of the study, we have the same
if, in g system, and fact, they have not been remediated, they would have been flagged, that's why i said i wasn't aware of it, but we didn't have any open issues. in the system. >> i guess, again, that's why i'm puzzled, how to we flag this kind of issue, in the future, so it doesn't get to this point? i was struck and i appreciate the opportunity to visit with you, secretary, i was struck with your comments about your concern that people in the military didn't feel like they could come to the military leadership and raise these concerns, until it got so bad. and so, i know that everybody is wrestling with this, but it seems to me we need to try and figure out how to make sure that it doesn't have to be a crisis, or an article that appears in the newspaper before we are aware, and begin to
address it. >> senator, as i've met and spoken with scott and soldiers, i think that's maybe one of the biggest concerns is, what is the long-term sustained effort to make sure that this doesn't fall off our radar screen? and that's why we are all looking forward to number of ideas, to make sure we the systems in place, the chain of command is in place, we get the culture back to where it was, where we are checking in on soldiers and things like that wherever they live. soon thank you all very much. >> senator, if i might add, the army has a best practice there, ready outsource, youth and stripper job in that regard, in balances and sickle points, so, we can pay attention to the models in our own system. >> now that i've had a chance to count to 10, i'll be a little bit more, as we close of the hearing, first off, senator shane, i don't know if secondary wilson was able to answer your question about the inspection, but i think the air force is also reaching out, and making sure they are given an
opportunity, and is not that they are barging in every home, so much as they don't want their home inspected, the presumption is they are satisfied with many of them are, to the point that richardson made about the number of contacts versus the number of inspections. i would assume that they have a challenge that they want to look at, but we try to characterize also has visits, not as inspections. >> that's what i wanted to make sure, that the families know they aren't coming in for some sort of rihome inspection, but appreciate the outreach. is just the mechanical things that drive me crazy. when you hear, in one of the cases, we were down at fort bragg, someone saying that they answered, they did a survey to figure out where they are, what the satisfaction level is, they had an annual event come in, one e $500 certificate, there w a pressure to have a positive predisposition, because the housing providers want a good score so that they get a bonus allocation. so, the negative, the cynic in
me, says the only reason that at you would ask somebody to sign onto a nondisclosure is you want to juice the system so you get a better review. maybe i'm wrong. happy to talk with the housing provider who thinks of that practice needs to stay in place. but secretary esper we were in this garage, at the house, these are people that have been in this house for four years, they are near range, the ground shape, general maintenance is going to occur, uei understand all that. as long as the maintenance request, are fulfilled over a reasonable period of time. but we went into the garage, underneath, i don't know if it was a bathroom, it was the vacuum leak. >> i was the first to crawl in and look at this ceiling that had been, i use the drywall work, when i was a teenager, and this thing was passed two days before, it doesn't take 48 hours for a thick patch of drywall to dry, it was wet. i would've there and stuck my
finger in it, and the secretary to the same thing afterwards, what happens here? we've got this process where the tenant calls, and says, i got what looks like a leak, the plumber comes, obviously didn't do their job, followed by the drywall people, who had to have known that the patch wasn't fixed, the drywall was wet, but they did their job, bypassing the drywall. and i'm sure that that drywall repairman reported pain me because i did my job, but that person should have had the authority to say, it's not right for me to do my job now, because the precursor to this work hasn't been solved, that's what i mean in terms of the supply chain. and >> senator, just to add more color to the story because you n recall this, what she told us as well is when she originally called the recorder in, what they told her was, just hang around your house for three days and we will come sometime in the three days. >> so we give you a window, >> while she has a job to go to. >> so, hei saw the secretary
esper was dead on, we should be treating this engagement with the tenants, the way you engage in an uber driver. just after the experience. with the plumber, give them stars whether or not they fix the problem. with the drywall person, in other words, let that be the stock for idetermining whether or not these housing providers are doing their cojob and providing adequate service. that's the modernization that we need to focus on, and i completely agree, it's going to take time for us to make sure that we have the operational pieces in place not to drip, i also believe that as you go through hithis process, some direction hear from this administration or past administrations may have increased or decreased the priority on housing, let's bring that to the four, any congressional action that cause a negative impact, we aren't going to find any one person responsible, we are all responsible, we are all going to be responsible for the fix, but the one exception i would
take, general millie, i think only had one exception, with his football team, that's the thing i found over time that i can't get him to turn around on. on this issue, i take exception to the notion that this is going to take a long time to fix, for those who are an acceptable housing. i don't think that's what he meant, there's two pieces. number one, fix every single one of them, now. i think some of these housing providers are hoping that the problem goes away, because people get pcs and will meet wait for the next person, to raise the same issue again, so, let's separate the systemic, the operational changes, we need to make, that will take some time, from the immediate challenge to make sure every single person who's an unacceptable housing either gets it up to standard, or gets them in another home. and i'll do it, that's correct. if it's safety, it's immediate, but the systemic problems, the
restructuring of these contracts, the incentive fees going to department of justice, these things we are talking about, the structural issues, that will take a considerable length of time, and a lot of going back and forth between congress and the department, the contractors, and lawyers and so on and so forth. with the immediate self safety, we have to be all over that, and i believe that the contractors that we've talk to, i believe there committed to those immediate fixes for life health safety. >> i do, too. again, this issue with a nondisclosure, go ahead. >> yes, i wanted to talk about the nondisclosure. senator cotton allowed us to speak directly to airmen, there's another group out there that i think we can't close this hearing without speaking directly to, parents of airmen. as a parent of an airman, every friday, afternoon, we have 800 young men and women, greatest treasure in our nation's
arsenal walk across the parade field and they become airmen. and at the end of that ceremony, the parents rush out of the stands, and the entrust them to us. and i am imagining there's a lot of parents of airmen who are listening to this hearing and wonder, wondering whether the leadership of the u.s. air force are taking care of their airmen, or future parents, and i don't want to leave this hearing without looking at them and saying that we on this, and will take care of their children. i'm sure the thing could be said straight down the line. i want to work with you all, i'm serious, maybe, i want to tamp down red herrings, if this nondisclosure practice no longer exists, this is just an artifact, that's great. if there's anyone housing provider that thinks they have a rational basis for not rescinding these nondisclosure agreements, over the next 30 days, i want to see them in my office. and, i want to get to these, what i think are big, these things we can turn over quickly, so we can really size
the problem and address the problem, secretary spencer we will close out. >> senator, i'll tell you right now this afternoon i will call all of our ceos, and i have to believe they are probably watching this testimony right now, and if they have any of these documents, in their files, to be accounted for and we will talk about them this afternoon. >> thank you. again, if they think they have a rational basis for it, i want them to come in my office and explained it to me. thank you all. every single one of you, i've had the privilege to vote for, and support in your current positions, i have the utmost confidence in you. i know that you will go after this, i know that it's complicated, and you should know that i will do everything i can to help you get to a good place as quickly as possible. so, with that, we will and the hearing, i think we will keep the record open. for a week, and pass it over to senator reid before we close. >> i just want to thank all the witnesses, but only for your testimony but for your
commitment to fixing the problems, and stay on target for months and months and months, as they fix this systemic problem. thank you. >> again, thank you all, we will keep a record open for any questions for the record, please know that my office is here to help you. thank you, the meeting is adjourned. ap.org]
>> an update on one of the witnesses at the hearing, air force secretary heather wilson announced today she is resigning to become president of the university of texas at el paso. secretary wilson has led the u.s. air force since may of last year, and was the first of president trumps service secretaries to be confirmed by the senate. her resignation becomes effective on may 31. >> c-span washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up saturday morning, colonel cameron ritchie of washington hospital center will discuss veterans mental health care, and the executive order signed by president trump to stem the rise of veteran suicide.
then, bloomberg news investigator journalist peter robinson talks about his recent article on changes to school nutrition standards and the role of the u.s. dairy industry. national popular vote john coble will join us to discuss efforts to have their electoral votes to which a presidential candidate with the overall popular vote. be sure to watch she's been washington journal, live at seven eastern saturday morning. joined the discussion. >> the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. >> ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. >> and the people who knocked these buildings down, or heroic. >> c-span's newest book, the presidents, noted historians rank americans best and worst chief executives. provides insight into the lives
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