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New report confirms that excusing bad military housing with high occupancy rates is total BS
A government official finally put to rest on Tuesday the lazy excuse that if privatized military housing was really that bad, service members would simply move out.
Elizabeth Field, director of the Government Accountability Office Defense Capabilities and Management, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that one of the metrics the Defense Department uses to measure privatized housing success is high occupancy rates.
In a May report, she said, the DoD called occupancy rates indicative of "high level of service member satisfaction and overall success."
"Through our site visits to 10 installations, where we conducted 15 focus groups with families, we learned that family members often choose to live in privatized housing for reasons that have nothing to do with the housing itself," Field said, presenting a new report from the GAO over the DoD's oversight of privatized housing. "Reasons such as living in close proximity to medical and education services for children with special needs, or a concern that off-base housing is neither affordable nor safe."
Figuring this out shouldn't take an in-depth government investigation — speaking with any service member or military spouse who has had problems with housing, yet decided to stay on-post, could have perhaps made this clear.
An active-duty Navy spouse told Task & Purpose earlier this year that the reason she and her family have decided to stay in privatized housing is because of proximity to daycare, the commissary, and living in a community with other military families who understand their experiences.
But it's a talking point used by both the Department and the housing companies.
In a February Senate hearing with housing company executives, Jarl Bliss, the head of Lincoln Military Housing said that if his company was to "cut corners and provide lower quality housing" service members wouldn't live in their homes.
"To the contrary, the military installations LMH services have some of the highest occupancy rates in the country," he said.
Corvias CEO John Picerne alluded to the same idea, saying in his opening statement at the same hearing that occupancy rates "soared above 93%" at Fort Meade when Corvias took over the housing.
In emails obtained by Task & Purpose for a story earlier this year on housing companies forcing NDAs on residents in order to remediate issues, an official from Navy Installations Command said that because a family who had documented problems with mold wasn't accepting another house, they "must not feel there is a great danger to health and safety at the current unit."
In reality, the family wanted to stay in their home because their young son was recently diagnosed with Autism.
Recognizing this problem is important for many reasons, one of those being that measures of success like this are "often directly tied to the performance incentive fees provided to the private partners," according to the GAO report. These are the incentive fees that the services say they're going to withhold if companies don't shape up, though there's debate over whether that will actually work.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) got right to the heart of the issue on Tuesday, saying that if companies aren't performing at the level they should be, "I don't think they should be paid even the basic rent … forget about incentives."
Lawmakers were dismayed on Tuesday as to why the housing problem persists, and demanded answers from each of the service secretaries and chiefs who were present. At one point, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) told the committee's witnesses to stop calling the housing companies "partners."
"They are not our partners."
A collision between a Coast Guard boat and a Navy vessel near Kodiak Island, Alaska on Wednesday landed six coasties and three sailors to the hospital, officials said.
The Navy has identified the two Defense Department civilians who were killed in a shooting Wednesday at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Hawaii.
A shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida has left four people dead, including the gunman, law enforcement officials said at a Friday news conference.
The shooter and two victims were killed at the base and another victim died after being taken to the hospital, said Chip Simmons, deputy chief of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
Another seven people remain hospitalized, including two sheriff's deputies who engaged the gunman, Simmons said at Friday's news conference. One was hit in the arm and the other was shot in the knee. Both are expected to recover.
Widespread sexism and gender bias in the Marine Corps hasn't stopped hundreds of female Marines from striving for the branch's most dangerous, respected and selective jobs.
Six years after the Pentagon officially opened combat roles to women in 2013, 613 female Marines and sailors now serve in them, according to new data released by the Marine Corps.
"Females are now represented in every previously-restricted occupational field," reads a powerpoint released this month on the Marine Corps Integration Implementation Plan (MCIIP), which notes that 60% of those female Marines and sailors now serving in previously-restricted units joined those units in the past year.
The troubled 22-year-old Pearl Harbor sailor identified as shooting three shipyard workers Wednesday and then killing himself may have come from a troubled ship.
Gabriel Romero, a sailor on the submarine USS Columbia, fatally shot two civilian workers and wounded a third while the Los Angeles-class vessel is in Dry Dock 2 for a two-year overhaul, according to The Associated Press and other sources.
Romero "opened fire on shipyard personnel with his M-4 service rifle and then turned his M9 service pistol on himself," Fox News Pentagon reporter Lucas Tomlinson reported, citing a preliminary incident report.
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam was not able to provide information Thursday on a report that multiple suicides have occurred on the Columbia.
Hawaii News Now said Romero was undergoing disciplinary review and was enrolled in anger management classes.