News Branch Navy

Navy unveils ‘bill of rights’ to improve barracks life for enlisted sailors

A step toward better living, maybe.
Max Hauptman Avatar
Navy Housing bill of rights
Chief Yeoman Jayna Sampson, flag writer to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith, observes the conditions of housing on Naval Station Rota. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas/Released)

The Navy is rolling out a new “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” for sailors living in barracks to, in theory, improve conditions in Navy housing for enlisted sailors. 

“The Navy is committed to providing high-quality accommodations to all Sailors, especially those residing in [Unaccompanied Housing],” Steven Drumm, Director of Navy Housing for the Commander, Naval Installations Command, said in a release published last week. “This Bill of Rights & Responsibilities makes it clear what guarantees we promise UH residents while establishing what their obligations are for maintaining their housing.”

The “rights” section of the new policy is fairly straightforward. It’s the right to live somewhere that is “safe, secure, and meets applicable health and environmental standards” and has well-maintained common areas. It’s the right to have “working fixtures, appliances, and utilities.” And it’s the right to verify the condition of a room before occupying it as well as to be allowed to report substandard housing conditions without fear of retaliation. 

The “responsibilities” portion is to basically maintain the housing. Don’t destroy anything, abide by the living standards, and note any problems. In other words, do your part to maintain the barracks. 

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According to the Navy, these rights and responsibilities  came about when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and various fleet commanders “identified unaccompanied housing as an area of improvement that would positively impact Sailor morale.”

Indeed, the new housing compact comes just a few months after the Navy released a “Mental Health Playbook” designed to address the scourge of suicide in the ranks after three such instances in a single week aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington

Barracks conditions for U.S. service members are an enduring and ongoing concern. Last year, roughly 1,200 soldiers living in rotting, mold-infested barracks at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were displaced when the buildings were deemed unfit for habitation. In 2021, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina were moving into barracks that featured “cockroaches, rampant mold, and missing beds and furniture.” on the Air Force side, the barracks at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas were similarly ridden with “moldy showers, pillows, vents, shoes, beds, fans, floors, and walls.”

“Given the services’ emphasis on ‘people first,’ regular maintenance and updates to living quarters are a necessary investment in the health and wellbeing of service members—particularly those in lower paygrades,” Katherine Kuzminski, director of the military, veterans, and society program at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, D.C. told Task & Purpose in 2022. 

The barracks bill of rights is just one of several upcoming efforts to improve living conditions, according to the Navy. 

“The Bill of Rights & Responsibilities is just the first in a series of efforts that Navy Housing plans to roll out in the coming months,” Drumm said in a Navy release. “Our hope is that by setting a collaborative tone with residents, we will be able to maintain and improve the quality of unaccompanied housing long-term.”

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