(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Alexandria Crawford)
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.
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."
Two U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been killed in non-combat incidents and a sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was declared dead after falling overboard while the ship was supporting operations in Afghanistan.
At least two defense contractors have also been killed in Afghanistan. One was a Navy veteran and the other had served in the Army.
U.S. Air Force officer passes in front of a MQ-9 Reaper drone, one of a squadron that has arrived to step up the fight against the Taliban, at the Kandahar air base, Afghanistan January 23, 2018. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. military MQ-9 drone was shot down in Yemen's Dhamar governate, southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
A Houthi military spokesman had earlier said that air defenses had brought down a U.S. drone.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the drone was shot down late on Tuesday.