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The Pentagon claims everyone loves military housing. A new survey of families says otherwise
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new survey of military families living on U.S. bases found most are dissatisfied with their housing, often citing serious health and safety hazards – results that counter years of Pentagon reports claiming soaring satisfaction rates among military housing tenants.
The survey results, collected from nearly 15,000 families currently or recently living in privatized military housing, were released hours before Senate hearings called to probe living conditions on U.S. bases. Wednesday's hearings were prompted by Reuters reports that found widespread housing hazards and poor safety oversight on bases nationwide.
The survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Military Family Advisory Network, found that just 16 percent of respondents had a positive view of their base housing and 55 percent had a negative one. Many families reported unsafe conditions including lead-based paint, rampant mold, exposed asbestos, faulty electrical wiring, vermin infestations and gas leaks.
The results contradict the overwhelmingly positive metrics of resident satisfaction presented in years of Defense Department reports to Congress, which say that nearly 90 percent of tenants polled would recommend privatized military housing.
The Defense Department reports rely on data collected by the private real estate firms that operate base housing in partnership with military branches. The companies' compensation is partly determined by the results of resident satisfaction surveys.
"It has become apparent that there is a disconnect between our findings related to resident satisfaction and what has been reported by privatized housing companies," the nonprofit military group's report said. "Military families are living in dangerous situations."
The Department of Defense declined to comment on the survey findings. The military has often credited its privatization program with enhancing living conditions for service families through new construction and renovations. The Defense Department said it is committed to remediating problems.
Around one-third of U.S. military families – some 700,000 people in all – live in privatized housing across more than 100 federal military bases. Whether families choose to live on base or in civilian communities, their rent is covered by DOD housing stipends. The online survey found that many families see little choice but to live in base housing: Rental housing off base can be scarce and costly, and deployments can limit their options.
The survey results will be entered into testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Among those slated to testify: Defense Department officials and top executives of five major companies who operate base housing in a public-private portfolio of more than 200,000 family homes. Senators will also hear from military families who will share their own stories.
Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force families living in 46 states with privatized military housing responded to the survey, the organization said. The respondents currently live on base or have in the past three years. Some described respiratory ailments and neurological disorders they blamed on poor water quality, sewage backups, water leaks, toxic soil and shoddy construction.
"Our results show a systemic problem that does not discriminate among location, rank, or branch of service," the report said.
Families said their concerns are sometimes ignored, or that their landlords or command threatened discipline if they continued to complain.
One California spouse whose husband served in the Marines for 20 years said she had to hire her own environmental firm to confirm mold in the house. The report didn't name her.
Others reported vermin, from black widow spiders to rodents, bats and snakes. "Rats would die in our attic, and they'd only remove them once maggots were falling from the ceiling," said a survey respondent living in Hawaii.
The Military Family Advisory Network, a support organization that represents service members and their families, said it decided to conduct the survey after hearing from families about housing concerns.
The findings echo a year-long Reuters investigation that found hazards and maintenance lapses in privatized military housing. Service families can be left powerless in disputes with the private landlords who are in business with their military employers. Those landlords, Reuters found, stand to earn billions in fees from 50-year contracts.
Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher will retire as a chief petty officer now that President Donald Trump has restored his rank.
"Before the prosecution of Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher, he had been selected for promotion to Senior Chief, awarded a Bronze Star with a "V" for valor, and assigned to an important position in the Navy as an instructor," a White House statement said.
"Though ultimately acquitted on all of the most serious charges, he was stripped of these honors as he awaited his trial and its outcome. Given his service to our Nation, a promotion back to the rank and pay grade of Chief Petty Officer is justified."
The announcement that Gallagher is once again an E-7 effectively nullifies the Navy's entire effort to prosecute Gallagher for allegedly committing war crimes. It is also the culmination of Trump's support for the SEAL throughout the legal process.
On July 2, military jurors found Gallagher not guilty of premeditated murder and attempted murder for allegedly stabbing a wounded ISIS fighter to death and opening fire at an old man and a young girl on separate occasions during his 2017 deployment to Iraq.
Trump orders dismissal of murder charge against former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected Taliban bomb maker
President Donald Trump has ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.
The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 after he repeatedly acknowledged that he killed an unarmed Afghan man in 2010. Golsteyn's charge sheet identifies the man as "Rasoul."
President Donald Trump has signed a full pardon for former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed.
Lorance will now be released from the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he had been serving a 19-year sentence.
"He has served more than six years of a 19-year sentence he received. Many Americans have sought executive clemency for Lorance, including 124,000 people who have signed a petition to the White House, as well as several members of Congress," said a White House statement released Friday.
"The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted. For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, 'when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.'"
Additionally, Trump pardoned Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who was to go on trial for murder charges next year, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murdering a wounded ISIS prisoner but convicted of taking an unauthorized photo with the corpse.
Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth first announced on Nov. 4 that the president was expected to intervene in the Lorance case was well as exonerate Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, who has been charged with murder after he admitted to killing an unarmed Afghan man whom he believed was a Taliban bomb maker, and restore Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's rank to E-7.
For the past week, members of Lorance's family and his legal team have been holding a constant vigil in Kansas anticipating his release, said Lorance's attorney Don Brown.
Now that he has been exonerated of committing a war crime, Lorance wants to return to active duty, Brown told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
"He loves the Army," Brown said prior to the president's announcement. "He doesn't have any animosity. He's hoping that his case – and even his time at Leavenworth – can be used for good to deal with some issues regarding rules of engagement on a permanent basis so that our warfighters are better protected, so that we have stronger presumptions favoring warfighters and they aren't treated like criminals on the South Side of Chicago."
In the Starz documentary "Leavenworth," Lorance's platoon members discuss the series of events that took place on July 2, 2012, when the two Afghan men were killed during a patrol in Kandahar province.They claim that Lorance ordered one of his soldiers to fire at three Afghan men riding a motorcycle. The three men got off their motorcycle and started walking toward Afghan troops, who ordered them to return to their motorcycle.
At that point, Lorance ordered the turret gunner on a nearby Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle to shoot the three men, according to the documentary. That order was initially ignored, but the turret gunner eventually opened fire with his M-240, killing two of the men.
But Lorance told the documentary makers that his former soldiers' account of what happened was "ill-informed."
"From my experience of what actually went down, when my guy fired at it, and it kept coming, that signified hostile intent, because he didn't stop immediately," Lorance said in the documentary's second episode.
Brown argues that not only is Lorance innocent of murder, he should never have been prosecuted in the first case.
"He made a call and when you look at the evidence itself, the call was made within a matter of seconds," Brown said "He would make that call again."
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