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A sprawling new survey says a ‘culture of resilience’ helped US military families weather housing woes for years
A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.
The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."
Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.
What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.
"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."
The top three overall issues that the survey's respondents reported were maintenance, repairs or mediation (56.8%); mold (29.9%); and filth in homes (24.7%). Of the respondents, almost 800 people attributed "deteriorated health to the environments in their homes."
Conducted from January 30 to February 6 of this year, the survey gives a general idea of the state of military housing six months after Reuters' bombshell investigation brought the housing crisis to the forefront of military issues.
MFAN says in its report that the SASC asked the organization "for input from military families regarding privatized military housing."The report was "entered into evidence in its subcommittee hearing," which took place on February 13, 2019. Since the survey was conducted — and the issue came under heavier scrutiny from the Senate Armed Services Committee — a number of efforts to improve housing has been undertaken by Congress and the Defense Department.
The problems with privatized housing can't and won't be fixed overnight, and MFAN says as much, identifying the intent of the survey to "understand and evaluate" housing issues.
But the service secretaries, along with Congress, have made a number of steps hoping to clean up the mess. The Army established a registry to help track health concerns that arose due to housing problems; the Secretaries put forward a Tenants Bill of Rights, aiming to put more power into the hands of the service members and their families; SASC members have proposed legislation that would increase oversight; and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has even called for a criminal investigation.
Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said in a Stars and Stripes op-ed published on Monday that it's "time for lasting, legal change that provides military families — the backbone of our national defense — with the relief and stability they deserve."
In the Senate's draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, released on Thursday, three provisions are laid out as means to improve military housing: the Tenant Bill of Rights; "new quality assurance and quality control measures and increasing health and hazard inspections;" and giving an additional $301.8 million to ensure installations have "the necessary government house personnel to implement thorough oversight and planning measures."
The housing companies have also said they've taken numerous steps forward in addressing concerns, whether by tackling maintenance orders, improving online portals for residents, increasing staffing, or other fixes.
In a statement provided to Task & Purpose, Lincoln Military Housing CEO Jarl Bliss said that results of the MFAN survey "of less than eight percent of residents is in sharp contrast to the thousands of independent surveys that a majority of Lincoln residents completed in 2018 that consistently showed high satisfaction."
Corvias spokeswoman Kelly Douglas told Task & Purpose that "4% of our resident population ... participated in the survey." She also pointed to a press release Corvias sent out on Tuesday, which listed a number of improvements Corvias is undertaking. Per the release, "Corvias has earned a high (4.42 on a scale of 1 to 5) satisfaction rating on completed work orders," and has a satisfaction rating with new residents of 4.46 on the same scale.
Hunt Military Communities spokeswoman Cindy Gersch said that Hunt is "fully committed to doing everything we can to address our valued residents' needs," and "takes the responsibility of serving those who serve and sacrifice so much for our country extremely seriously."
SEE ALSO: Private housing companies are forcing military families into silence if they want their problems addressed
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Senior defense officials offered a wide range of excuses to reporters on Wednesday about why they may not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats for documents related to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
On Oct. 7, lawmakers subpoenaed information about military aid to Ukraine. Eight days later, a Pentagon official told them to pound sand in part because many of the documents requested are communications with the White House that are protected by executive privilege.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.