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tv   Hearing on Military Privatized Housing  CSPAN  December 4, 2019 8:00pm-10:11pm EST

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hours. >> the committee meets today to receive testimony from the government accountability office that serves the secretary, the service chiefs on the current condition of privatized military housing. almost a year ago, i first heard from military families about the abysmal conditions they faced, and frankly, a confession is good for the, soul of this was janet driver who called this to my attention from tinker air force base and i thought this was something that was unique to tinker air
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force base but it's also in oklahoma and it's also all the way around the country. and so that was the background of how this all started. we've come to learn that it's it is a problem nationwide. it's a national crisis of proportions we haven't seen since the scandal at walter reed about a decade ago. members of this committee, our staff and myself, we've all traveled and seen these problems firsthand. this is the third hearing this committee has had on this issue and i'm sure it's not going to be the last. we hope that since our first two hearings in february and march that we would see maked differences by now and be able to use this hearing, in fact, it was set up to discuss the progress that's been made. well, it is set up to look at the progress, but the progress has not been what we wanted. we continue to hear regularly from the families across the country about questionable practices, poor workmanship and frankly in
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some places about housing contractors not caring about the families they're supposed to be serving. additionally as reported in the press, some of these contractors are now under investigation for defrauding the federal government. i'm worried what else can come out of the woodwork on this. what other problems are out there that we don't know? to our witnesses from the department, i have to ask, when is enough enough? i have to make one comment, thought, of the eight witnesses that are here, with one exception, they all kind of walked into this blind, because it's a new issue that they're not familiar with, so when i'm critical, say some things that are critical, i'm not looking at you personally but as the department and who was representing it before you arrived here. so regardless of any potential criminal wrongdoing, we're still
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receiving complaints on a daily basis showing that you're still failing to fix the problem. the time for talk is over. if these companies can't get the job done, you owe it to the military families to find a company who will. i say this because this housing problem is really a readiness problem. we don't think of it as being a readiness problem. i had experience talking about this. we actually had two airmen who had to come back from uae to handle this problem that should have been handled by the military in their absence, so this is a very important element. these hearings are not to be an indictment on the privatization of the housing system as a whole because in some cases it's worked very well. to those who lead our men and women in uniform, i ask what are we going to do about it since almost a year later we're still hearing from the same -- about the same
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problems. as i mentioned earlier, this will not be the last hearing. i'm putting our witnesses on notice that we will have another hearing early next year to discuss implementation of our housing reform efforts and contractors will be back to answer the hard questions. i had some things i was going to say about ms. field, but i think i will go ahead and not use her time. but i think that the gao has done a great job and i want to make sure everyone hears from them. but to remediate these and dozens of other problems, we have more than 30 housing-related provisions in the nda this year. 30 provisions. that's another reason that the ndaa is important and we've been unable
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-- we did a good job in the house and we do have those problems that we will be addressing. we can't afford to ignore this readiness problem. we're continuing to pass the ndaa every year. it supports a bipartisan national security of our country and should not be held hostage by issues outside this commitee's jurisdiction. unfortunately because of issues that are not in the senate armed services committee jurisdiction, this year's ndaa is not yet resolved, which means only leadership can clear up this logjam that's out there. otherwise, likelihood is greater now than it was. we're out of time and i didn't mean to deviate from the subjects of this committee hearing but i think it's very important that we bring this up as a critical thing that's taking place right now. i hope we can move past these issues so we can determine -- we can remain focused on the promises we made
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to those who serve our country and get the ndaa signed into law. that should be our priority and it is. with that, i would like to recognize the military families who have traveled here today to seek answers from you and we'd like to have -- they're in the back of the room. i want all families that have an interest or have been affected to stand up right now. let's give them a round of applause. (applause) >> as i have said before, these are the people who trust you whose trust you're going to have to regain. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i would like to begin by again thanks the vast number of military families who have spoken out about the inadequate conditions of their privatize d helping. i want to recognize the families who have traveled
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here today for this hearing. today we welcome ms. elizabeth field from the gao. ms. field, i want to thank you and your team for your dedicated work thus far. the gao's findings confirm the alarming trends we have heard from many military families. the gao found the 87% satisfaction rate often quoted is misleading and unreliable and that the records for work orders and service calls are questionable. this committee continues to receive complaints directly from military families. while the services have made strides since last february, many unacceptable problems with housing remain. i am still not convinced these private companies are doing everything in their power and investing as much as they can to improve the homes for our military. i also have several questions that i ask be entered into the record that were requested directly by military
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families on the many issues in military treatment facilities and diagnosing medical problems caused by inadequate housing conditions. while the conference process is still under way for the fiscal year 2020 ndaa, i remain confident that we will reach an agreement on legislation that will represent the most significant reform of housing since its inception in 1996. we have a lot of work to do and i thank the chairman for convening this important and timely hearing. lastly, i want to take this opportunity with the civilian and military leadership of each of the services present to express my deep concern about the president's recent interference in war crimes cases involving members of the u.s. military. these comments
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will follow my remarks on the floor of the senate on november 21st. the president has the pardon, but he has the responsibility to use that power wisely and not recklessly. good order and discipline are time-honored traits of the united states military, ensuring military and women remain tethered to our ethical principles. president trump's disregard for our military justice system risked undermines the confidence of our service members in the rule of law and their chain of command. especially those who are courageous enough to bring allegations of war crimes to light and testify against their teammates. when we do not hold our military personnel to appropriate standards of conduct, it also makes it more likely that they will face similar abuses on the battlefield and less likely that we will be able to hold our enemies accountable. there's no one with more
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credibility on these issues than former senator john mccain who stated, this is a moral debate. it is about who we are. i don't mourn the loss of any terrorist life. what i do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect, we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to beget that best sense of ourselves through the violence, chaos, and heartache and violence of war, we are always americans, indifferent, stronger, and better than those who destroy us. this we demand of our military men and women
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and i believe the president's interference in these cases have done them a serious disservice. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator reed. each of the departments has submitted a statement for the record and i would ask each of our departments to look through the to limit your remarks to five minutes. we have a full panel today. we have a lot of members who have a lot of questions, so before we turn to the department, i would ask ms. elizabeth field of gao to provide her statement which i know includes new findings that will be made public for the first time today. ms. field? thank you, chairman inhoff, senators and staff of the committee. it's an honor to be here today to discuss the ongoing work assessing the military >> housing initiative. almost
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as soon as reports began surfacing last year of problems with military privatized housing, service members and their families began reaching out to us to share their stories. we heard from military families who were reported mold throughout their homes, rodent infestations and other serious problems like gas and carbon monoxide leaks and repeated sewage leaks. while these are just some of the examples of the come complaints, they're indicative of the types of concerns we heard from military families living at privatized housing at installations across the country. what we wanted to find out when we began receiving these come complaints was how commonly held they were. defense department officials have primarily pointed to two metrics to help answer that question. first, they cite the results of the annual sfasatisfaction survey. tenant satisfaction has remained at 87% and is a critical indicator of program success. however, as senator reed noted, we have determined that for many reasons ranging from how the survey question was asked to how the results were compiled and calculated, this 87% figure is not in any way reliable. second, the department points to high occupancy rates. dod stated that the fact that occupancy
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rates remain greater than 93% programwide demonstrates a high level of service member satisfaction and overall success in providing suitable and desirable housing. however, through our site invites where we conducted 15 focus groups with families, we learned that family members choose to live in privatized housing for reasons that have nothing to do with the housing itself. 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 or safe. we sought a different way to determine the extent of the problems we were hearing about. we collected and analyzed over 8 million work order records from all 14 private partners and all 79 projects. our hope was that we could use this data to determine the hazards to see
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patterns over time and to assess the timeliness of maintenance conducted on the homes. unfortunately, we found that because the data in these records are not captured reliably or consistently, they cannot be used to do so. among other problems, we found anomalies in the data provided by all 14 private partners such as duplicate work order and work orders with completion dates prior to when they were submitted. the problems i detailed are significant not just because they tell us that dod's statement that the program has been successful overall may not be fully accurate, but because the department has been using these metrics to reward and incentivize the private partners. the service secretaries along with officials from the office of secretary of defense have taken steps to address these and other problems, from working to renegotiate the fee structure to strengthening oversight on the ground to increasing staffing levels to military offices and i also want to acknowledge the many factories that make this a deeply complex
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problem. including the department's inability to unilaterally make certain changes to the legal agreements with the partners. through our ongoing review, we know that the department's efforts are headed in the right direction. but it will take sustained attention likely over a number of years to work through the many complications of this long-term public/private partnership and to meet the department's goal of providing safe and clean housing for all service members and their families. thank you and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, ms. field. we have a lot of participation today. we're going to have seven-minute rounds. senator
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reed and i agreed we're going to ask our members to stay on subject. there will be temptation to get into other areas, but housing is it today. that will be what we will attempt to do and i will take my first -- ok, i'm sorry. let's go ahead with our opening statements. let's start with secretary mccarthy. thank you, mr. chairman. chairman inhoff, ranking member reed, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to provide an update since the focus on housing operations and oversight that began in february of 2019. >> i would like to reiterate
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the army's serious commitment to providing safe, quality and affordable housing to our soldiers, civil servants and their families. it's our responsibility to provide housing, not simply to code, but also to quality. we must fix the current housing crisis using a house-to-house approach. you must also address the government's model to address underlying issues. over the past ten months, we identified our governance flaws, initiated town halls and created 24-hour help lines to hear feedback from the families affected. we have empowered the chain of command, created transparency of the work order process and ultimately sought to regain the trust of the men and women in our ranks and their families. we directed housing as our top priority and are aligning resources against it. as a demonstration of our
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commitment to this issue, we assigned housing operations to the four-star commander who has the delegated authority to with hold incentive fees. we have developed new incentive fee metrics, measuring work order response times. work order repair quality and satisfaction that will allow us to hold fees for substandard performance. as a tri-service resident bill of rights is being finalized. we are also equally concerned and admitted to improving barracks and army-owned housing. in the last two fiscal years, the army has invested a great deal in the statement. for financial you're 20, projects will total 790 million. while the army has worked hard over the past 10 months to make significant strides in the management of privatized housing, there's much more work to be done. the immediate focus is to fix
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current housing issues that can be addressed through work orders and improved management. we owe it to the 45% of our force who live on post. in addition, we need to repidly to address the needs of families who have been displaced. across army installations there's a need for standard operating procedures and accountability of claims. this must include standardizing rent reimbursementfood cards, and remidiation or replacement of household items. since february, the army has tracked the displacement of 2,2 currently, 182 families are still in temporary housing, while privatized companies are addressing issues in their homes. to displaced families, days can feel like weeks. and weeks can feel like months. these aren't simply numbers, these are lies. currently, we have over 86,000 privatized homes with one third of houses in good condition, one third in
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fair condition requiring minor refurbishing, and one third in poor condition needing to be rebuilt. right now, the general is working on an overall analysis of the army's privatized housing requirements, and in the spring we plan to present the findings in spring. in closing, the army is resolved to the commitment of providing safe housing to soldier and their families. we need congressional help in two areas. first, we need the ndaa approved to enact the residents bill of rights. second, we need a final fy 2020 appropriations bill to continue immediate housing improvements. >> my staff has reminded me that we'll stay on our schedule. next we'll be hearing
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from the acting secretary and then secretary barrett. >> distinguished members of the committee, thank you for your continued attention to this very critical issue. for the navy marine corp team our people are our most precious resource and we will always prioritize their safety and their well being, particularly of our sailors and marines, but also their families who serve alongside them. there's an empty chair at thanksgiving table for many of our navy and marine corp families because a father, a mother, a wife or a husband was deployed overseas. these families serve with pride and distinction. on top of the considerable demands of military service, no military family should ever have to contend with chronic maintenance issues or concerns such as mold and pests in their homes. trust and confidence are the bedrock of effective command and the sailors and marines in our care must be confident the leadership will advocate tirelessly on their behalf. this is commanders's
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business. the three of us are actively engaged on this issue and have been since the beginning. we're committed to empowering leaders throughout the chain of command to assess, monitor and remediate issues of concern. since the department of the navy last addressed this committee, we have diligently pursued three distinct lines of effort. one, active and engaged leadership. two, reinforcing the department of the navy's oversight of our ppd partners, and three, improving partnerships of privatized housing owners to most importantly restore trust with those families that reside in those housing units. our written testimony provides more details on these efforts. so we'll close with this. while we have made steady progress, we're not completely satisfied and we'll not rest in our determination to make this right for our sailors and marines and families. we appreciate the committee's dunned continued resolve and
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the commitment of insuring final passage and the 2020 appropriations. thank you and we look forward to your question. >> thank you. secretary barrett. >> chairman inhofe, members of the committee, thank you for inviting us to discuss housing. the service chiefs work together on this issue. we share ideas of how to improve housing because our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who live on military facilities deserve safe, secure quarters. we are jointly committed to resolving housing issue and we thank you for your continued attention to this matter of mutual concern. issues with privatized housing on some installations revealed instances of faulty construction, subpar
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maintenance and late to need responsiveness. while many bases have effective privatized housing, others have suffered with project owners who have simply failed. some project owners have reportedly disregarded maintenance requests, misrepresented timelines, performed partial repairs and failed to address the root causes of problems. the air force owns part of the responsibility as well. we cut too many personnel who provided oversight of the projects and failed to fully empower the chain of command to own and fix these issues. as a result, housing problems have distracted from the air force mission. they have disrupted our airmen and dislocated their families. this is unacceptable. so we are taking steps necessary to hold our project owners accountable for improved performance. during my confirmation hearing before this committee we discussed some of these issues. subsequently, my first stop on my first trip as secretary was to survey base housing. in my first five weeks as secretary, i have examined privatized housing in wyoming, oklahoma, texas, and mississippi to observe problems and process
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first-hand. since my secretary wilson predecessor testified on this subject nine months ago, the department of the air force has fixed many housing issues and made progress toward fixing others. they completed an important inspector general investigation, the results of which have been shared with this committee. dozens of recommendations from the ig and from air force itself and from families themselves have been fully and partially implemented. process improvements fall into five broad categories. we are empowering the residents. we are integrating leadership and accountability into all levels of housing. residents, project owners and the military chain of command are now communicating directly and candidly. housing now has local and central scrutiny and oversight. finally, air force policies for housing management had been updated and
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standardized. under the leadership of air force assistant secretary john henderson and tenacious base commanders, we are establishing resident councils to solicit direct feedback. we're placing new resident advocates at each of our military housing offices to connect residents with resources and to help resolve disputes and additional personnel will help us achieve 100% premove in inspections while enhancing oversight. we have also worked with project owners to fix root causes of recurring mold at the bases with the most severe challenges. some housing issues invite concern about possible misconduct including allegations that some owners manipulated data to increase
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their incentive awards. these allegations have been referred to the air force office of special investigations, which in coordination with the fbi will determine whether to press criminal charges. senator wicker, last week when you and i visited the air force base in mississippi, we met air force families who had been displaced from their privatized homes as many as four times in recent years. as these families prepared for thanksgiving, they wondedred whether they should decorate a christmas tree in their temporary homes. family disruptions are personal and impactful to these families and therefore to us. we owe it to our air force families to get this right. with your continued support we will. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, secretary barrett. we're going to have five-minute rounds. we have more than a dozen contractors out there providing military housing to our services and some are better than others.
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there's one that's kind of notorious at one end of the spectrum and that's the i'm very familiar with that because that's where this whole thing started. in my opening statement i mentioned tinker air force base. and it might be unfair since you're the newest one, secretary barrett, but to give you the first question. you know, when does if you had a repeater like this, why is it that they're still there? what do we have to do? how do you pull a plug? how do you get that done? are there contract obstacles out there? we want to get things done. and you're the newest one out there, what do you think? >> senator, that's what we're looking at. before i was
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confirmed, the air force was taking action on exactly that concern. they received that company received a letter of current from the air force expressing that the air force has lost confidence in their ability to perform under their contract. that letter was issued in september. since that time, they have not been receiving performance incentive fees. since that time, all of their contract -- they have the contract on many bases, all of their performance fees have been withheld. so they are under financial penalty right now, in addition to that they have been it's been requested they submit an action plan for what they will be doing. that plan is due by the end of the year and there will be metrics and accountability from that plan or the air force will be initiating the elements accessible to us under the dispute resolution procedures, which could lead to anything up to a default on their lease. >> i guess short version is you're doing everything that you can do, you inherited the
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facilities that you are able to changes you're able to make currently? to each of the secretaries, i'd like to mention or i keep hearing that they're talking about these companies said that they would be open to reopening these agreements to insure transparency, accountability and performance. never >> talk about what the costs would be. i would ask any secretary who would like to respond to the question that behind closed doors are companies willing to reopen the agreements or are they giving lip service to contractors trying to dig their way out of a bad situation. if they're open to reopening them, the agreements, have any of them talked about what the cost would be involved to do such a thing? any of the secretaries. >> mr. chairman, in our most recent discussions with the irc
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partners, there was a discussion about the restructuring of the debt of their companies. the economics in most cases for the projects are under 1996 interest rates. so 7%, 8%, 9% for their projects, which by changing the scoring model at o&b, we can provide an opportunity for them to go to capital markets and increase the capital for reinvestment. what we need to do we've instructed for the army to come back with an analysis of how substantial of a project this would entail and >> then would have to negotiate that. the sense that i had from the most recent discussion in september was there was definitely energy to do that. >> any other secretaries? >> we absolutely would consider reopening the contracts, renegotiating the contracts. it's much more efficient to work under that contract now if they will correct their behaviors. if not >> and much cheaper than trying
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to start all over again? >> exactly. >> okay. you know, we do have some gotten some positive results. i know we hear more about the negative results. but i know in our case of tinker, the colonel took command of the 72nd air wing and things really started to improve. one of the things he did i was down there, i heard from other >> people saying he actually went to town hall meetings we're talking about the those that are in charge in the chain of command doing town hall, >> meetings and meet with people and getting emotionally involved with them. i'd like to at least point out some good things are happening. we want to learn from those experiences. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. let me once again commend ms. field for the excellent work. you made the point that many of the
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statistics that are used, particularly for the performance and fee structure are erroneous, misleading, not appropriate which begs the question, and i'll address it firstly with the navy. have you withheld performance fees just in general because of the inaccurate data, or specifically because of the problems you've >> encountered? >> most recently, what we did, senator, was had to go back and look at the incentive award fees to insure that the metrics were such we had incentivized the appropriate behavior by the contractor in this case. what the general has done, he's revised them. we did get inputs from the gao and others. he has revised those. those will go live here in a couple weeks. there are specific instances for installations in ft.
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benning and i think in one of the most recently where we held back i think joint >> base lewis mccord withheld substantial fees back from the contractors in this case because of poor performance and work order response time as well as quality. chief, do you want to add anything? >> senator, i would add as the secretary said, the average incentive fee right now is 77% but we're taking a harder look at that. we've got some posts that's is 100%, but as low as 11%. we're seeing that making a difference in performance of the contracts. >> mr. secretary? >> we in the navy has not paid out an incentive fee this year. we're looking at those very very carefully to understand whether or not they've earned them. and we're going through that analysis. going forward we've done what the army has done, in terms of changing the way we're calculating the incentive fee >> to much more heavily
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weighted towards resident feedback and their perceptions to including healthy and safety issues which were not part of the structure before. >> thank you. secretary, do you have anything to add? >> the air force has been looking at restructuring the fees, including a lot more of input from the >> base commanders so that the performance on the base is calculated into the structure. >> i'm going to return again directing questions to each of the services. these contractual agreements you find now somewhat constraining in terms of getting the proper performance. what's the biggest contractual obstacle that you see, secretary, mccarthy? is there any way we can >> provide assistance to you to get that modified? >> senator, when the bill of rights is published, i think that the dispute resolution is one in particular that we need
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to put >> in place as quickly as possible. it's why many cases that the only mechanism families have to get results is legal action. so it's the sooner we can have a dispute resolution in place, it will help improve matters dramatically. >> if there was alliance between the companies and services on resolution, the benefit, quality of life, that would be a positive step? >> yes, sir. >> thank you. mr. secretary? >> yes, senator, i agree with secretary mccarthy. i would say one of the other challenges we have is we don't have until now, we did not great visibility into the data. most of the maintenance data was captured in two different types of i.t. systems. without getting into the mundane aspects of that, but they weren't capturing data in the same >> ways. what we're trying to do is to standardize that so we can get visibility into that a lot quicker so we understand if a contractor is not performing
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properly, we can take action on that a lot more immediately. i also agree with secretary mccarthy on the issue that the tenet bill >> of rights i think once we standardize that i think it's going to really help our ability to resolve disputes more quickly. >> you can rationalize the data without any contractual changes, you can do that? >> yes, sir, we believe we can do that. we need the partners to enter the data in a way that makes sense to us so we can compare it across the entire population of homes we manage. >> and your comments? >> i don't know of any contractual changes that congress can help us implement, but we'll take a look if that's the case, we would be happy to provide those for the record. >> thank >> you very much, thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator reed. >> ms. field, who performed this, satisfaction survey? >> the annual satisfaction survey is performed by a third
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party group. the questions that were asked and how the results were, collected and analyzed and presented to you. >> okay, who makes that determination? >> well, there are multiple levels in which the problems with this >> so cel did not devise the questions, >> they just simply asked what they were told to ask? >> my understanding is that the services coordinated with cel to develop the questions. specifically they asked how much do you agree or disagree, i would recommend this community to others, which is different than the question that was presented to you. >> i think we should all agree we got bad information, inaccurate information and we ought to completely rethink how we ask that question so we can find out what the troops are really thinking there. so thank you for that. secretary barrett, thank you for coming to
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mississippi and visiting with our service members there, senator hyde smith was there with me. congressman pulazzo's staff was very involved also. and let me give a shoutout to colonel heather black, the wing commander there, as well as her senior enlisted leadership. i think this particular group of leaders represents, frankly, a mindset change to be very customer oriented and to be empathetic with the troops and the folks that are trying to make it work in these houses. frankly, i would contrast that with some of the previous leadership we had, where one
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particular person told a member of my staff that by raising these questions, we're simply making matters worse. i was absolutely delighted to see that there's none of that left at the leadership anymore and there's very much a mindset of knowing what the problem is and that it must be solved for folk whose have stepped forward. you have dedicated, assistant secretary, to work almost exclusively with this problem, is that right, secretary barrett? >> senator, the assistant secretary has a lot of other duties as well, but he's spending a great deal of his time on exactly this topic and really is devoted to it. >> that's john henderson, and
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he's sitting behind you. so i want to thank him, too. and it does occur to me he's spending a lot of time on this. we have an unusual situation in that katrina hit and almost >> all of our 1,188 housing units had to be replaced in one fell swoop. and it took me a while, but yesterday i finally found out this, information of the 1,188 residences there, 1,084 have experienced moisture and mold. now we're told this was a mistake with the installation of the air conditioning units and particularly the air conditioning ducts. i'd like for you to tell us on the
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record how many air conditioning companies were involved in this? were all of them involved in these homes that have had the moisture problems? why the multiple instances? you mentioned a family that had four that had had to leave their residences four times and the problem still hasn't been solved. why is it the remediation is often not getting done? why are they typically told you're going to be out of the house two weeks and typically that turns into four and six and eight weeks? are there any houses that are ever repaired in two weeks? i'd like to know that. how often does it in fact, take two weeks? and why is it that neighbors
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tell these people that their units that have been vacated often go days without workmen being there. of course they're out for longer and no work is being done. that can't be a good use of the time. many of our troops are asked to move out to hotels because there's not adequate housing for them to be in. one troop said he had to be out by 11:00 a.m., got all his belongings in his vehicle to be to comply with the 11:00 a.m. checkout and then mid afternoon, as he sat in his car, he was told it would be another two weeks. you have to move back in. this is called being jerked around by the system. and one other question i'm over my time but these need to be answered on
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the record. in many instances like ibiloxi, mississippi, the homeowner's insurance is so high that the basic allowance for housing isn't adequate. when i was in the air force on active duty, i was happy to go off base and use my vah and live well. do we need to change the statute to account for higher homeowner's insurance with vah? thank you, mr. chairman for that indulgence indulgence. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. >> thanks, mr. chairman and thanks to you and the ranking member for having this hearing to follow up on our last hearing in march. most of you were not here in that hearing, i recognize. the progress that's been made since then has been encouraging, but extremely
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limited. i want to thank the multipleilitary families that are here today, but also the countless military families who have continued to contact us directly as well to advocate for better housing and i want to highlight, matter of fact, one area where we have received complaints. i'd like >> to know of all the complaints that you have received about retaliation. this issue is one that is most troubling to me, retaliation for legitimate complaints ranging from service members being prevented from attending certain training with their unit or military spouses being disinvited from participating in spouse support groups. we've heard stories about housing company representatives circling homes of military
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families in cars, making verbal threats or moving work orders to the back of the queue for families who are asking for families who need maintenance. these reports are outrageous and i'd like to know in writing of all the complaints received by the services. my time doesn't allow me to go into them here. these military families report to us conditions that have been chronic, repeat, recurring, endemic to their living and no doubt loss of incentive fees will spur some improvements. but incentive fees and even the bill of rights and i've been a strong advocate for the bill of rights. in my view, lack the
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impact that rightful criminal prosecution would have. and i know that in none of the statements presented here this morning has there been any mention of an actual referral or for criminal prosecution. i'm deeply disappointed that there has been no such referral. secretary barrett, i thank you for mentioning that in all actions where fraud is suspected, you, quote, immediately notify the air force office of special investigations and the department of justice. there has been a recent report by reuters released last month that communities fake maintenance records to pocket performance bonuses at several air force bases. the same reports have been in the misrepresentations and outright lies to everyone of the services. and i'd like to know
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from each of the services whether you have referred any cases for criminal prosecution beginning with secretary mccarthy. not at this time, sir. >> secretary? >> senator, we have not done that yet, but i would like to say that a couple months ago i made a decision as the under to put a dedicated audit function within the assistant secretary solely focused on ppb to go and investigate and determine whether or not there is any such activity as you mentioned. so if there is such an incidence of that we have the ability to have data and evidence and turn that over for prosecution if necessary. >> secretary barrett? >> as i indicated, we have investigations going on by the office of special >> investigations of the air force and we have where fraud has been alleged, those facts have been presented to the
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department, to the fbi and they would be determining whether or not to go forward with pressing charges. >> have there been any referrals for prosecution as of yet? >> not yet. >> well, i really want to urge you and i did it in the march hearing as well. it's not a new concern on my part. in fact, in the nbaa there is language in the senate passed version of the nbaa to encourage these investigations which i helped to write. i've also written to each of the service secretaries urging that fraudulent activity be referred to the department of justice and i would like a report within a reasonable amount of time from each of you as to what the status of any investigations are within your
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department. thank you for your attention. i know just in closing let me say i know that every one of you wants the best possibility housing for the men and women under your command. i have no doubt about your commitment but i think we need to use every tool, every possible resource to make sure that these private contractors get the message that there's a new era for military housing, thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chair. i'd like to say thank you for the witnesses today for your commitment, but more importantly i want to say thank you to the spouses, the family members that are here today. in the 90s i was a young army wife. newly married into the rangers. i had a husband that deployed frequently. i can only imagine the situation that all of our family members went through, whether you're juggling family, children,
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childcare, school, a civilian job, whatever it was that you had in addition to that you had housing issues that you had to address. because maybe your spouses were elsewhere doing what the united states federal government told them to do. so thank you to all of you. i do understand those challenges and we have to make a change. so thank you for being here. so we've talked a lot about this high level of investigations and involvement of our secretaries and so forth. but what i'd like to hear from our chiefs is what are we doing to educate those young commanders, you know, the health and welfare of their troops, that is up to them. so while we do have other special offices that are involved, what are we doing to educate that chain of command and how they can get engaged with their
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troops and making sure that housing is appropriate. secretary barrett, if we could start with you? >> we are in fact working on training for the commanders of the bases and the squadron commanders on the housing issue and on medical issues so that there's better understanding. that would be passed on to each of the members of the military. >> general, did you have any more to add? >> yes, ma'am. so after this issue came up, i hosted a conference with all of our wing commanders in the united states air force, that's active guard, reserve, civilian leaders, 278 strong. what i shared with them was there are certain things that we have to do as leaders that are nothing short of sacred duty. one of those is making sure everyone is properly equipped and when they come home we've taken care of their families. you can't delegate that. that's command
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team business. in every echelon of command now we have training not only their responsibilities but also on the tools they have available, and to get to senator blumenthal's point, to make sure we have all the tools available and we're pushing the decision authority down to where they can make the most difference. >> absolutely, thank you. >> you point about the two chains of command is really important. they both have a key role as you pointed out. the installation, this is what they do every day and they focus on it, but i would say accurate prior to the spring they were not educated on how to interface with their ppv partners and what laborers they had when they weren't performing. the unit chain of command what is what was the general focused on i think we
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didn't look the other way, but i'm not sure that all of our commanders act pretty confident. most did not understand they understand their role in leading their troops and everything they do and fail to do, but not when their housing situation isn't working right. what are they supposed to do? now that's part of our commanders'course. you could argue it should have been beforehand, now it is. so in both chains of command, i think on your point about education has to be there. it can't be one time, it can't be in 2019. this is something we have to sustain. >> thank you. admiral? >> yes, ma'am. so thinking about the core issue here, really the root cause of what drove us to where we are right now, i think a big part of that was mindset. the commandante got at this with the fact that missed responsibility for those things we're accountable for. i think the other thing that went hand in glove with that was the fact we never codified roles and responsibilities, including oversight for commanders, and
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so like the marine corp, we now have formalized forces for all of our commanders, executive officers, senior enlisted. even more importantly right now, recognizing that most of the progress we've made to date is grounded on good leadership, that allowing or enabling commanders at every level and their senior enlisted to understand what the processes are, what the right levers are to pull so that when a sailor and his family has an issue, we can respond immediately and not put it on the back burner. >> thank you. general, if you have anything to add briefly, please? >> yes, we may have outsourced, but we did not outsource responsibility. every leader is responsible for their soldiers. they understand that and they're back into fixing these problems.
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>> i thank you. >> thank you, mr. chair. thanks to our witnesses. i want to thank the military families who've been important in this effort. secretary mccarthy, thank you. yesterday secretary mccarthy asked me to accompany him for fort belvoir and we saw two houses there that had, really serious problems. there are 15 communities in it. some houses are 1940s and 50s and some are ten years old. we visited two communities that are new communities. we saw a family who were continually told they didn't have a mold problem. the husband had some carpentry skills and had fixed some mold. he was being told there was not a problem and there was. even after the problem was discovered by him, he couldn't get a reponse until he said the place is unsafe, we need to move out. then the housing company jumped into
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action. second family was having their home repaired. the spouse noticed that they weren't bringing any new insulation into the home. they were supposed to clear out a mold situation. they told her they had done it. she noted that no insulation had been brought into the home. open the wall, i think you're lying to me. the wall was opened up and the old installation that was dirty had been put back in and it was soaking wet. they hadn't fixed the water problem behind the wall. this was six months after we had the hearing. secretary mccarthy was not happy with this when he's heard these stories, nor was the garrison commander. i think we've identified two main problems: the military chain of command abdicated responsibility for this when the contracts were entered into. i can understand that there were priorities that maybe assumed front of mind and other priorities that didn't get the attention they deserve and they need to now get. but secondly, these housing companies, they had a double
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standard, and the double standard was they operate in the private sphere and they lease to private tenants and have to compete hard to make sure they have high occupancy rates. if they treat their private tenants badly they'll go elsewhere. but the military tentants are like captives. people who move from across the country to a place where they don't know anyone, where don't know anything about the rental market, where they're trying to find new schools and get accustomed to everything else. there's a tendency to want to live on base and so the occupancy rates will be high. these companies who would compete hard and try to produce high quality product in another business unit of the identical company treat these folks as if they're captives and they don't have to treat them in the same way they would treat private tenants and i find that
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outrageous. i want to ask ms. field a question about your testimony. i find a couple things about it pretty shocking. the 87% satisfaction, that's in a report that congress demands, so it's a report to congress. i feel misled. i'm trying to determine whether i'm accidentally misled or intentionally misled. if you read ms. field's testimony, you'll understand her conclusion is that data is unreliable. osd gave an instruction to the military departments that in the annual satisfaction survey, they were supposed to ask this question, would you recommend housing? instead the departments on the survey, they didn't ask that question. they asked this question: how much do you agree or disagree with the following statement, "i would recommend this community to others". "i would recommend this community
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to others". a reasonable person reading that question wouldn't think it's a question about housing. what does that mean, neighborhood? fairfax county? northern virginia? if people have a problem with housing, it could factor into their answer. but fact that the answer to that question is 87% tells us precisely nothing about what people think about their housing. and if i understand your report correctly, the military departments didn't ask the question the osd told them to ask. i understand from a footnote that in 2019 they're going to ask the question they should have asked all along, are you satisfied with the condition of your unit? that's the question that you need to ask to have a statistic an answer you can count on, but the answer to the question of, "would you recommend this community to others? " tells us exactly nothing about housing. so i definitely feel misled by this 87% number. and i don't
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know whether you feel intentionally misled or accidentally misled. i'm going to conclude, you raise a really important point that we may need to grapple with this at committee. if the companies, because of the dates they entered into these contracts and their bond arrangements, structured the finances around a 7%, 8% interest rate and right now if they could refinance and refinance for a much lower rate and free up capital that would be used to capitalize improvements in military housing, we should be doing what we can, in a fiscally responsible manner, to allow the refinancing of these contracts with the expectation that some of the money that's freed up with the refinancing could be plowed back into houses. so many of us have probably refinances our own houses during times of low interest rates and we've been able to do what the military and these housing providers have been able to do. i hope we might explore as a committee if there's a fiscally sound way we could refinance and use those
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monies to perform improvements. thank you, mr. chair. >> i want to thank you for being here and worrying about the housing for our families. ms. field, you said in your testimony there was changes -- that if we could make those changes it would have a big impact. is there legislation we can pass right now that would force changes that would positively impact housing for these families? >> senator, i think the most important thing that this committee can do is to keep the pressure on both the services as well as the partners. a lot of the things that are in, for example, the bill of rights, are things that could be done now. they don't have to be legislatively mandated. we are at g8 spiel have been looking at this and have found problems throughout. it's really that pressure that you can exert that would probably be most impactful. >> there's no legislation you need that the services need
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right, now that would change the housing? >> i don't want to state that categorically categorically, but i would say some of the things that probably would be most helpful are not things that can be mandated because they have to do with the legal agreements between the services and the private partners. >> we can pass legislation that require the private companies to change, right? we could pass -- >> i believe that would still require negotiation with the partners because of the existing standing legal agreements, many of which are 50 year agreements. >> so for all the, secretaries, what are the limitations in issuing the bill of rights today? is there any limitation? >> senator, there's a couple issues related to the ndaa language that we have that are different than the department's position. specifically, i'll cite two examples with dispute resolution, we need to hire a
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third party mediator. another one would be on whether or not the army could have on-post quality assurance hosts to inspect homes through legal liabilities associated with it because we don't own the assets. we could step out, but we want to do it with the congress and have the support of the congress, sir. >> senator scott, just let me add to that the service secretaries have agreed on the tenant bill of rights that we've negotiated with the partners. we're ready to go and decide. we're being differential to the committee and what they're trying to put in legislation and make sure we're in sync on that. >> that's exactly the same with the air force, we're ready to go, could have issued it earlier but don't want to issue
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something today but then lies in contrast with what the the nbaa >> why don't we just do it and then change it. >> we could, but i think that for our troops we'd rather -- or airmen, we would rather have a consistency. >> can you take those dollars and mitigate the problem? are you allowed to do that? a private contract, if someone violates it, i can go spend the dollars and eventually get the money back. do you have the ability to do that under existing contracts? you want to take the dollars, any dollars, but take for sure the performance dollars. i've got 15 homes that need mold repair, i'll go ahead and take the money and spend it, could you do that? >> senator, i'll have to get the answer for that specifically, i'm not familiar enough with what the contract what the negotiations with the partners say. but when the fees are not paid out, they are stayed within the service. i
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have to look and see exactly what our legal rights are in terms of what we can do with that. i don't know the answer, but we'll get the answer for you, sir. >> i'm not sure of the contract language on whether that's held in escrow or withheld, but not available to the officerair force. we have spent $25 million in remediation that is may be brought against that, the contract. fees. >> you know -- >> senator, it's my understanding the funding that's held in escrow, but i don't think it could be converted for other projects. >> will you find out when you get back and just let me know? >> yes, sir. >> why wouldn't you spend those dollars if you could do it and take away from the money you had to give the companies. have any of the companies said to y'all they don't have the financial wherewithal to make the changes? >> yes, sir. i mean, the last discussion we specifically
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addressed how do we increase the ceiling on capital for investment. as i mentioned in my opening statement, a third of our housing is going to be required for recapitalization. we need substantial more funding. and if you have economics from, the mid 90s, like 8% intertest on the bonds. so they're never going to fix this? they don't have the capital to do it and they -- we have to do the general and i sent a level to the director of office management to change the scoring criteria on projects. if they can get lower interest rates and they have a desire to do that, obviously, from a business perspective. but to increase the capital to be much more aggressive on investment projects. >> senator scott, let me interject that we have had the bill of rights language in the defense authorization bill. our problem is we have been bogged down, mostly because of the
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house on the bill. we're dealing with an absolute deadline now. of course that language is in there. it was our thinking at that time to not encourage the bill of rights to be put together until we had a chance to do that in the ndaa. >> that makes sense. >> you sure think they could take the money that's being held on performance and go spend it to fix the problem these companies are responsible for. >> that makes sense. thank you. senator? >> thank you, chairman. i want to start by saying i share senator kaine's frustration with the data we've been given and frankly how that data has been characterized and we need to understand, as ms. field points out, exactly what the situation is and the way questions have been asked has really obscured that. i want to ask each of you, one, are you currently, as serving secretaries, are you asking the question that osd suggested
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that you ask, that would you recommend privatized housing? and in addition, are you asking the question that was also referenced in the gao report, are you satisfied with the condition of your housing unit? >> yes, senator, we're making the changes to the customer survey. >> and is that current, or is that in process? >> i believe it's in process, sir. >> senator, we're looking at that as well to insure that the surveys are asking the right questions in terms of what's happened in the past, in terms of how we follow the guidance of osd, i don't have information about that. i will say we did an out of cycle survey immediately after this situation came to the forefront last year, and we discovered we actually had much lower rates than we had thought before. so i think we're looking at this and we want to make sure and this is my point i made earlier about data and understanding what the data is telling us and
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making sure we're asking the right questions and measuring these ppd partners properly. >> i will say i think ms. field and the gao were able to get to the heart of a lot of data very quickly and to implement other tools like focus groups to understand the nature of this problem. and all of us up here need to be able to have reliable, consistent data. for the remaining two secretaries, i'd also ask, are you asking those two questions today, or when will you be asking those two questions? >> senator, we are asking the questions as directed by the secretary in the form that is the requested form. one of the key issues on the data is that we really are challenged when we don't disaggregate the data. when you put it all together it looks like 87% sounds like a really good number. that's 90 plus percent on many bases, but it's much much lower and that's where we really need to focus
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our attention. when we aggregate the data, it's harder to find the real answers and real problems. >> secretary mccarthy, you mentioned the need to fix the model. i think those were your words. but we also heard a third of housing is in poor condition. so, you know, it forces me to ask the question, was privatizing our military housing a mistake? to put that another way, do we at least need to take a step back and analyze whether this model is actually working for our men and women in uniform? >> senator, if we hadn't privatized, we would not have been able to bring the investment capital to bear to have the current housing portfolio in the shape it's in, $13 billion worth of investment has been put in place since 1996. we wouldn't have had those funds, for example. i think that the challenges over a 50-year relationship, you
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have to adjust over time. the flexibility of contract, the manner in which to restructure debt when economic conditions are better. you have to present these opportunities so that that's where the challenges -- >> do we have the tools and knowledge built into your services to actually implement those contracts, to hold people to account? because those things happen every day in private real estate business. that's not an expertise that is necessarily something that i think the services have spent a lot of time thinking about. and if we're not doing that, we certainly owe it to the men and women who live in these homes to get that right.
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>> great question, senator. it really hits home, the point the secretary made before, our ability to analyze the depreciate depreciating assets. we're capturing the data to know the health of these homes. the oversight quality assurance requires more resources but also to your point the right skill sets associated to manage that. we are in many cases we need to improve across the board in all those areas. >> senator, i think it was absolutely the right decision at the time to go in this direction. as secretary mccarthy said we would not have been able to recapitalize these homes at the time we did it. it does not mean it's worked out great. i think i would say it's not horrible performance, but i think it's very uneven performance. from personal experience i have a son and daughter in law who are on active duty. they've lived in privatized housing and it was fantastic. going and visited several different base and some of it is fantastic and some of it is not. the problem we have
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is really understanding the differences because we don't have good access and visibility into what's actually going on. on a unit by unit basis, when you accumulate data and it says 87%, what about the people who aren't happy? how are we finding out about that? not just finding out -- >> how are we fishingxing it. >> right we're finding out about it sometimes a year after it's happened. we need to be much more a real time monitoring of this problem. and that's what we're trying to do. we certainly have the tools to do it. the data is being captured. once we have that and we have real time information, we can act a lot more appropriately and a lot more quickly. we certainly have the tools to do that, given some of the tools that exist because of the revolution in technology we've seen. we can address this. i think the model needs tweaking and as secretary mccarthy said, there may be some structural challenges with the debt that we need to look at as well. this is a problem
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where when you outsource something i think there is a cultural shift that people felt it wasn't their problem. it's going to be our problem to worry about the health and well being of our multiple families. we have to reinforce those messages and i'm sure we will. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i also want to recognize our military families that are here today. it's hard enough to serve in the military, be the spouse of someone who serves in the military, but you add onto the challenges we're talking about here today and the types of stories we've heard from what families have had to put up with. as someone who has served myself, this me off. what you endure is hard enough. aits leadership issue. i appreciate our service leaders being here today. this is a leadership issue by the companies. in america we just
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came back past veteran's day, we're very patriotic, we want to say thank you for your service, yet climate and culture in >> these companies starts at the top. the culture they have from the top all the way down, whether they're going to be responsive 24/7 to the needs of those families, whether they're going to do whatever they can to make sure they're addressing the health and welfare of these families, that's a climate issue. maybe some of the ceos need to move into some military housing over the holidays, what do you think about that? see how they feel about trying to figure out where they're going to put up their christmas tree or where they're going to be serving christmas dinner. thank you for all your work on this. there's basically 14 companies that have been involved in privatized military housing. are any of them not acting like slum lords at this point? are any of them doing a good job? any of them? >> senator, i wouldn't want to characterize any individual company as good across the board or bad across the board.
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i would say that at almost every installation we visited we found that the military housing officials on the ground were extremely frustrated with the private partner personnel on the ground. we're not getting the cooperation or support they needed. there are some exceptions, which i'd be happy to talk about. i think it's fair to say we've discussed earlier whether tenants are satisfied at 87% rate or not. there's clearly a problem here. >> one thing, uou know, i read in some of the testimony is that sometimes families were confused when they went to the office as to who was the advocate for them that's paid by the taxpayer and who is actually a representative of the slum lord. maybe they can wear tee shirts that say slum lord on it and identify themselves as to whether they're with the company or housing office. there has to be
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some sort of distinction i'd encourage our service chiefs to ask them to do that. they need to know who's who that they're not talking to a contractor making a complaint. >> there's a trifecta. there's the command team, there's the housing management officer, and the office and then there's the privatized owner. all three of those have to be engaged. where we have good engagement with those three, ownership and responsiveness it's working. when one of those is not there, it doesn't work. >> family needs to happen that whether they're talking to somebody who is representing the company versus somebody who is supposed to be their advocate. do you guys agree? i'm trying to get audience engagement here. one other factor is, we put language in as you're trying to hire more individuals in the housing offices to be advocates is to prioritize military spouses for those positions. i don't think we need nbaa language to that.
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is that something that services are looking to do. they're at a depression level unemployment as well. this is something they've been working on this committee as well related to military spouse unemployment. quickly i bet you would have spouses that would love to serve in that role. >> secretary esper prioritized that early on in his tenure to give the opportunity, preference for hiring opportunities on the installation. >> are there positions that are open that are unfilled right now though that would quickly be used with the filled with military spouses? anybody want to jump in? to jump in? >> we've problems we discovered. to your point, we didn't feel like we had enough advocates out there, so we're added 300. we're in the process fof hiring them. we're also waiting on the appropriations bill to pass so we can fill those positions. but prioritizing military spouses is something we're going to do.
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>> secondary barrett? >> we have established new positions and those would be great jobs for military spouses. >> so thanks. i'm almost out of time, but i >> just make sure everybody understands that the ndaa is being held up for political gains. the defense appropriations bill is being held up for political reasons that have nothing to do with our troops, so i just want to make sure everybody understands that without an ndaa and without the defense appropriations bill, the level that we have agreed to or have been fighting for, this is going to hurt fixing some of these issues. can i get a yes from everybody? thank you. so let's get everybody on both sides of the al to vote those out and get them done this week. thank you. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i thank the secretaries and chiefs and families and advocates who are here. this is
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a continuing addressing of a concern that is going to be ongoing. and as you noted, we have to be vigilant. not just today, tomorrow, going forward. so, miss field, you said that the department can't make unilateral changes to these long-term contracts to address some of these issues that have been brought forth. can you give me an example of a limitation and contract that would make it really difficult for the department of defense to unilaterally make the change or require a change? >> sure, senator. so, most of the agreements although not all, do have a performance incentive fee built into the agreement. what we've determined through our work is that a number of the metrics that underlie those fees are not good ways to measure the condition or quality of the home so they're looking at things like rewarding the partner for occupancy rate, which doesn't have anything to do with the condition of the home or timelyness and reporting. our
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understanding is that to change those underlying metrics as written in the agreements, the partners will have to agree with the services. >> none for >> habitableility? >> when we looked, fe found they were more focused on the health and project as opposed to the quality and condition of the home and holding the partner accountable for that. >> so for the secretaries or chiefs, are any of your agreements relating to habitability of the units? is there anything that allows you to, to negotiate regarding hablitability in any of your contracts? anybody can answer. >> senator, the metrics, the incentive award fees it
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referenced, across all, first off. the second, i don't know if it's on any of the installations we had today, as i mentioned in my opening statement, we are changing the incentive award structure and starting this on january 1st. so you're able to change the incentive structure by focusing on habitability even if somehow there's not reference to that in your long-term contract? >> we have to, we've back to the partners and are changing the fees. we had to go back to the partners to do that. >> and are you partners cooperating with changing the matrix? >> it's been a negotiation, but that's how we're initiating it january 1st. what about the others, secretaries? obviously we're here because of the non habitableility of some of these units. it's a huge issue so are
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you imposing habitability as a factor in your incentive payments? >> yes, we're going through that process, >> just as secretary mccarthy said. we've restructured our fee and prior to this, we did not have that health and habitability thing, but now we will and our partners have worked with us on this and they are accepting that. >> we have, we are in the process of restructuring our incentive fees and so that will include elements of a commander's overview or observation. habitability would be one of the elements they would put. in addition, 100% of our units have had a health and safety review prior to people moving in. and so that habitability would be another word for the health and safety of that. >> yes, i'm using the word habitability to cover broad range of issues of concerns to all of us. there was a mention made that the data is not, the data is input in such a way
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that it's not terribly helpful in terms of what's going on. what are you doing to make sure, for one thing, shouldn't all of the contracts, these housing contracts be the same in terms of the, the terms of the contract across the services? miss field, can you answer yes or no on that one? >> well because they were entered into at different times and services, they were created with different terms and different levels of accountable accountability built into them. >> okay, that's a problem, but be that as it may. what about the data, the insufficientsy of the data? do the rest of you agree that that is an issue? anybody? >> of course, senator. we've addressed that at the quarterly discussions and that process starting to improve.
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>> and we do agree that the data is an issue and disaggregate inging it, working to improve the quality of the data is one of the key things that we're looking, at. >> may i ask just one more follow up question with secretary mccarthy. so the question of the housing that you went to see with, with senator kaine, very clearly that if they're putting back molding that shouldn't have been put back, that sounds like fraud to me. so you had testified that you did, not refer any matter for prosecution. is that the thing that you are considering sending on for prosecution? >> senator, we after what i saw yesterday, i was very concerned and it is something that i addressed specifically with the general and we're going to take a very hard look at that. yes, ma'am. >> please do so and that goes for all the services. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman and i want to thank the chairman and ranking for the
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participation today. i've been here five years. i've never seen a panel of military leadership that we have today. i think that sends a message to the families, but also says how serious this problem is so i want to thank everybody r for beinger here. i have a question for the panel and your staffs here. if you've ever lived in base housing anytime in your career, would you raise your hand, please? there's the issue. these people understand. i grew up in base housing. i understand what it means to be dislocated. this is unacceptable what's happening right now, but i want to understand, i want everybody in this hearing to understand the hypocrisy that you've heard this morning. we're pointing fingers at contractors. yes, there's culpability there and it needs to be dealt with. there's leadership issues maybe within the dod, needs to be dealt with, but the one thing we're not talking about is responsibility we have here in congress. this is the third month, the end of the first
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quarter of our fiscal year. we have not funded our men and women in uniform, period. we can talk about a continuing resolution all we want to, but we've sent a message to putin and xi and everybody else in the world that political gains here are more important than our men and women in uniform. that's unacceptable and it directly affects housing capability. the u.s. army did a study recently that you guys said that specifically right now, 4,400 new units are being held up from construction because of this continuing resolution. by the way, this is like the tenth out of 11 years, this is the tenth year that the first quarter has been spent under a continuing resolution where no contracts can be made. no follow up can be made. no accountability accomplished. i think there are 269 other maintenance housing units for something like $69 million, which i don't understand those numbers. that's $250,000 a unit. so somewhere offline i
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want to get at these numbers because they donèt make any sense but u would you give us an update on get ingting this problemics fixed? >> on military construction for barricks projects, senator, about $239 million held up. 73 million joint base langley, 55 million. so barracks is being impacted. the family housing projects overseas. >> i'm sorry to interrupt. we can do this all day. i don't want to give you guy us a pass, but i want full accountability here and we bear the brunt of this. if we funded this prior to september, the continuity of the programs could be continuing. i want the people being affected to understand that the fix can't be accomplished as logn as these political games are being played right now and the point i want to make. so can you give us the other impact that maybe caused by this, this insidious practice that we have here? 187 times since the, the budget act was put in place in 1976, this
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is our 187th continuing resolution. it devastates you guys and hurts these families. can you give us more detail around that? >> $1.1 billion been requested specifically on housing restoration. >> what does that mean? >> we cannot start the projects. we cannot initiate the projects. we don't have a fund. >> so the projects underway, does it affect those? >> in some cases. >> so they're being affected right now? >> any new projects then existing ones are being fund at the previous levels so they are, the buying power is reduced, yes, sir. >> thank you. i visited benning, one of our great heritage sites in the country, really. happens to be in my home state of georgia. i've got red clay under these nails like you do i'm sure from your time in that part of our state. i just met with general brita down there.
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he's doing a fabulous job. there's a different problem in columbus. you have these historic homes. they have lead. problems asbestos before. give us an update on how that that lead problem is being dealt with. by the way, we deploy a significant percentage of our men and women, we have a significant percentage across more than 100 countries right now today. so on most of our people are on these bases have a spouse overseas. and so can you help us understand the progress being made there and the displacement that we've incured there and what with we can expect? >> yeah, first of all, on the historical homes. we've taken the philosophy old is not historical. what i mean by that is you know we have homes, we have to replace them or restore them to the level they were before. maybe a house that's 100 years old that a captain lived in. we have houses like this all over the place from 50 to 100 years old. we don't want to restore them with the original materials. we're
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working our way through that. we think we have a way ahead so we don't have to go back and get original materials so we can modernize these homes. i grew up in an old home. 100 years old, but it's old. it's not historic. what we need to do is is modern modernize them what we need for the families. as you know, we're going through the homes right now. lead is a huge issue. we are very, very concerned with our families. we are going back and getting these homes and remediating with homes, but it takes time. i think we're working about eight to nine homes a week and it's going to take us some time. two to three years with these homes to get them to the level we want them to be. >> would you get your staff to keep us updated about the progress of that project specifically because i think that's a bellwether of all the bases out there. >> we will. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. chairman, with chair's
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permission, i'm going to yield a couple of minutes to senator manchin who's got to leave for a committee hearing. >> thank you. this is to the secretaries and miss field to you. listening to the concerns we have, there's not a person up here, i'm sure you feel the same way, who are not concerned. service members should have better quality of life and their families. homeowner's association is something i'm familiar with and it works this way. you're a developer. you're the developer. any of you all the developers. when you have the governance and turn it over after a period of time to the homeowners, we have the responsibility to basically evaluate. are you doing your job or not? have you lived up to >> your part of the bargain when it was turned over and we have the right to bring civil actions against you. why can't we do the same here? every member of the service and their family that moves into one of the homes, basically would be part of the homeowner's association. that association develops their own board and are able to bring civil suit if
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they haven't performed. that's the best way to do it. better than what the military and everybody else, we'll spend millions of dollars for people on the front line who can tell you immediately and if you're the contractor that's rewarded basically one of these exclusive contracts for 50 years, then you have u a responsiblity. if that's the responsibility and you haven't lived up to it, let it go to civil court. not military court. you'll never have this problem. this will eliminate and remedy this immediately. and we can put this right into the bill of rights. >> mr. chairman, we could do this as we're going now and it will basically take care of a remedy of how you can cure this, quickly. and they'll step up to the plate. they don't want these civil lawsuits brought against them. that's my input. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i'm, mr. chairman, thank you. thank you, mr. chairman, thank you, senator manchin. two comments before i ask a couple of questions. number one, i agree with is that right purdue
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completely about the cr and about where we are and the politics and ndaa and appropriations i just don't want there to be any impression of anybody in this room that the politics that are being played is only on one side of the al.isle. we need to get it done. i agree with him. we need to get it i'm hearing a lot in these hearings, where these companies, are being referred to as our partners. they are not our partners. they provide a service. we pay them for their service. they are not a partner where there is a given take, and issues like that. they are providing a service to these people. we should be demanding, and make sure that we are demanding, that they deliver the excellent services that we are paying them for. and that we don't consider them
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a partner, like i would my spouse, or a law partner. they are providing services. with the time remaining, i'd like to ask each of the secretaries, secretary mccarthy, you mary and general partner, you can get it done. when we had the companies here, one of the things i asked them, if they would agree to withhold incentive fees, you mentioned in your testimony that they are working on that. have any incentive fees been withheld? yet is that still part of the process. >> we have held fees at fort banning. we will be doing it at others in the near future. >> you already have a process in place for? that >> it is being formalized on the 1st of january. some of these instances were pretty extreme. >> how about the navy? >> senator, we have not given
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an award yet this year. we are evaluating all those, to determine what they earned. >> is there a process in place, to eliminate -- how about the air force? >> we are withholding all fees, on the basis of ms. performance from one contractor, on some of their bases, and the other contractors, we are observing their performance, they are aware that we are withholding funds from others. >> thank all three. i think that's a good stab, i am still hearing issues. there are particular issues with historic properties, i am still hearing from constituents who are having serious problems. please take a look. thank you mister chairman. thank you all for being here,
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and special thanks to the military families who are in attendance., back in march when we had the last hearing i did not have a very happy discussion. we had a revelation come up about these nondisclosure agreements, that the housing providers are requiring intends to sign on to, that seems to be illegitimate tenant complaint. at that time i ask everyone to go back, over the last 30 days and have all those ndas rescinded, and if there was any private property housing, they thought they had a great case to call me up and come to my office and explain to me why they should have these, i had nobody come to my office. i thought these had been rescinded, but this week i got an email, and another nondisclosure agreement, from monterrey bay, where the practice continued at least
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until august. we will have a discussion about this, because it is in your light. responding to senator cain's question about the satisfaction surveys, if you have a nondisclosure agreement that says you can't speak even about the existence of the agreement, and you can't speak disparagingly about the housing provider, than how to see answer that question? >> that is a great question. >> that is why these things have to be eliminated. i want to ask you, can i get your assurance that you can go through your chain of command and go to your housing providers and say, this ends immediately? and if you think you have a legitimate reason for having one, contact me. i would love to hear the basis for that. i don't think there can be one. i want your assurance that we are going to
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move forward with this. this is part of the problem. i have tried to be balanced, every time i come in here. if you look at it, when these contracts started getting initiated back in 1996, they were conveying property that was owned by the government, to a housing provider, they were to fix some of the old units, they would build new units, and they had to make a financial decision that ultimately resulted in an investment that private sector investors invested in. it may have been in some cases they simply did not know what they were buying. everybody who flips a house sometimes it works out well, sometimes it doesn't. there may be a rational basis to come back to some of these housing providers who said, look we may have sold you a bill of goods and we have some responsibility, we have responsibility to smooth out the economic
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consequences. in other cases, they built houses that contributed to the problem. we don't know the medina to fix that. my question to you all is, when is enough enough? when do we look at these contractors stories, and say it is time to recognize that you are in breach of contract, we need to go a different way, your business practices or to a point where we have to go to a court of law and settle this. when is enough enough? secretary mccarthy? >> we might be there right now, sir. >> secretary mode? late >> senator, i think in certain cases we may be there. in other cases i think there is a pretty heavy responsibility on navy, and navy security. >> secretary bear it. >> senator, an off is enough. we have had enough. on some of these properties, they have worn out the patience of the air force. in other instances,
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they are doing a great job. >> i agree, and i don't want to go over time. i want to be fair. i don't want to let our passions sweep up private housing providers, who seems to be doing a good job, trending in the right direction. but we probably need to make an example out of a couple of them, and draw the line and move forward. in the other cases, secretary ryan, i think you are right, if we don't look at recapping allies asian, i don't think we should take this back over and go to the old ways. senator produce point is well taken, suddenly you have to rely on us to give you resources, and how does that work out for you? by having these contracts in place, we need to look at recap it'll is a shan, we have to go back and rationalize. -- i know that these contracts were negotiated
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overtime and there were differences, some of them were learning from the past contracts. but at some point we have to open this and aggressively pursue it and i am going to leave you with this, i don't know if other members have done it. i have had town halls, multiple sessions, i have literally met with hundreds of military families, on those two bases, and things are improving their. but i had one military spouse drive up from ford banning, and they said we saw when you really started to shine at fort bragg, now i am down it banning and it is not that nice. i am encouraging you, go on base and shed light on these folks. we are making progress, but we are not making it nearly as quickly as we should. i really do believe it's time to draw a line with some of these vendors and contractors and say enough
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is enough. thank you mister chair. >> bank you mister chairman. miss field, i don't want to step on your recognition. it is appropriate. missed field, i want to get to the basic question. are these contracts adequate or inadequate? is the problem the contracts, or the enforcement of them? >> i think it is both. in many cases, the contracts were not written in such a way that the services could truly hold the partners accountable for everything they should be held accountable for. >> let me stop you there. i want to follow up. i can't believe that the fundamental nature of the contract doesn't require the contractor, these aren't partners they are contractors, quit referring to them is partners. they are contractors. i can't believe the base and requirement wasn't
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safe and healthy, habitable units. >> the partners. >> what will be buying? >> the partners are required, under all projects to comply with state and local environmental health and safety codes. that is a requirement in all contracts. to your second point, i think part of what we have found through our ongoing review is that these services, at many locations have not done all they could to perform oversight to ensure that was happening. when it comes to things like incentives to really get the companies to pay attention, that's where there are problems in the contract. >> i don't think they should be paid rent if they are in saving renting out good units. >> the services do have the option of rescinding these contracts, that is an option available. >> my experience in this kind of work is that implementation is as important his vision. my
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sense is there are differences in the contracts, but there are basic provisions that they need to be safe and healthy. they need to meet codes. i believe, having not seen the contracts, this is really mostly an implementation problem. then my question is, who is in charge? is it the base commander? is it a housing officer? is it the secretary of the navy? is it the secretary of defense? someone must be held accountable. it looks like endemic non enforcement. >> if i may, it is the service secretaries that signed the agreements, so i would say they are responsible. >> ultimately responsible means not so responsible. i want someone who can be fired. >> i think that would have to be done on a case by case basis i want to point out two examples of where there was a
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break in leadership. at tinker air force base, and camp lejeune, they had recommended to senior leadership's, to withhold either part or all, of funding and never got support for that. that's an example of a break and leadership. >> was that base command, or regional?? the part of something you all should do is assigned somebody who is in charge of this, and hold them accountable. i don't know if it's one person at each base, for someone in the department, or in the army. we have this diverse, diffuse responsibility and therefore no one is held responsible.. can these things, secretary
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mccarthy you've talked about the bill of rights. cannot be imported into these agreements without permission, for a negotiation with the contractors? is that something that can just be stuck into the agreements? we had to. >> we had to work through the language with the companies in question. with respect to your earlier comment, it is the chain of command meant, those installation commanders in the army's case had not been in power. >> wouldn't that be the logical place to lodge this responsibility? >> the senior commanders are now back as a part of the process. they rates the garrison commander. >> is that true and other departments? i'm getting a yes. let the record show affirmative nods. final question, a detailed question on this
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refinancing. why do they need our permission to refinance? people refinance all the time. if interest rates have gone down they can go in and raise more capital. what is the holdup? >> in the contract they have to have a story in criteria for the projects. that is managed by the management. we would like to rescind the rains memorandum from the 1990s, so we could adjust the scoring criteria, so that we could go back to the markets to raise the capital. >> so the government can control this? does it take an act of congress? >> no, we are working with the office of the budget. >> will you let us know if that gets bogged down? that will be one way to get a lot of new capital into these products. >> yes. >> i would like this statements from the secretaries on where they are lodging the
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responsibility for the enforcement of these contracts. the name of the person, the position, and what the arrangements are to be sure that the enforcement takes place. you can have the best contracts in the world, if it is not enforced in implemented properly, people will suffer. that is exactly what is happening here. thank you mister chairman. >> do any of you feel that's unreasonable? thank you, we recorded the nods. >> affirmative nods. >> senator hawley. >> thank you mister chairman. i want to thank the military families who are here, first for your service, the sacrifices you have made, your service members your family members. thank you for what you have done. thank you for being here today. thank you for making the track and showing up and advocating. what you have been through after your service
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is outrageous. it is unacceptable. it wouldn't be acceptable for anybody to be treated like this, in this way. but for you as service members and families who are sacrificing day in and day out for this country, to have been through what you have been through is really a breach of faith and what this country owes to you. so thank you for being here, and you have my commitment that my office, will do everything to see that this will not continue. let me ask a few questions, specifically about fort leonard would. i want to start by saying many military families and missouri are worried that base housing on those installations may still be at risk. i want to thank the leadership of both of those installations for doing their part to ensure that our service members are getting high quality on base housing. but let me ask about some of the concerns military families have expressed to me, in particular they have raised
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concerns that is bell for, and other companies shift their attention to fix problems in other states, companies might take their eyes off the ball in missouri, and let things slip. secretary mccarthy, bear it let me ask you what are you doing to ensure that for leonard, and white would, will not be changes he's companies reallocate to deal with these glaring oversights elsewhere? >> it is had very poor performance in some settings, but very good and others. the base commander having responsibility and authority over the housing topic would mean that there will be careful attention given to the local base, by the local leadership. distractions by outside, at other bases will not be a
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distraction from the performance. >> thank you. secretary mccarthy? >> we are watching closely senator, we will make sure there is no change, that doesn't lead towards improvement. >> let me ask you both again. we will start with mccarthy. families in my state have also raised concerns about insufficient tenants rights for those who live off base. with that in mind, what is the army doing to ensure the military families have access to high quality off-base military housing? >> specific to missouri, i will have to get back to you. in other instances like yesterday, for it benning and brag and others that i have been visiting, they work hard with the local communities to get additional opportunities for
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off base housing. we are doing this at all of our installations, we can tell you about what we are doing it for leonard in the future. >> same question. >> off base housing, there is an allowance that members get. maybe the chief would have further detail on that. >> we do routine housing allowance surveys, and we also go out and look at the basic allowances, the service secretaries all signed a memo to governors last year. it was a very important memo that said, is we are looking at your bases there are two issues that are top shelf for our families. first is reciprocity so that is spouses move across the country they can continue to work, the second is the quality of their schools. that letter has had a fairly significant impact, so i want to thank this committee for all the work that has been
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done, because it is definitely improve the quality of life for our spouses. >> in my time remaining, let me ask you missed field, at the current rate of decline in the housing inventory, do you think the program is financially viable? will it survive the full 50-year term? >> the department has determined that the, mhpi is working. we found that while they have good mechanisms in place, they don't in the long term, so i think you are concern is well founded. frankly, what concerns me more is that there are more mechanisms in place for the services to assess the financial health of the projects, and hold partners accountable, then there are four assessing the quality of the housing. >> thank you. that is a very important point, we have to rectify that. thank you mister
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chairman. >> i don't buy this argument that the chain of command can't be held accountable in the past, because we have not empowered them to enforce these contracts. by nature of being in command, especially being a garrison commander, you are responsible. if you had troops in barracks, where they come to you and complain that the ceiling is collapsing and hurting these soldiers, and that garrison commander did nothing about, it you would hold them accountable. if you had a tank gunnery range, and aerial gunnery range that was constantly hurting the troops who are operating that range, and that range was not up to standards, that garrisons commander would be held responsible. he would be held responsible for keeping it
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safe. i don't understand why not a single garrison commander, to my knowledge, has been fired or a failure to maintain these standards, period. let's look forward. i would like to ask each of the service chiefs, is maintaining the highest quality of housing for your troops and their family members a line item on every person's evaluation report, all the way up the chain, up to and including yourself? is this a line? >> it is not. if it is at the flag level, we are looking at doing that down at the oh six level below. >> no so far then? >> no. >> how many years has it been? why is it not? >> >> i would like to recommend that it be one on there, for every single garrison commander,
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all the way up to services and chiefs. until you are being evaluated on, it you can just walk away. i can't find a single person who has been fired over this. you look like you want to say something. >> i do. with all due respect, to secretary mccarthy, this wasn't a decision you made, it is important to point out that in 2013 the army issued clear instruction to installation commanders and garrison commanders not to perform inspections of homes, for the life, health, and safety of service members. that has since been reversed. to me, i can see how commanders during that time period would have been confused about what it was they were and were not supposed to do. they were getting an instruction telling them not to perform inspections. >> since that has been reversed, that's good. but that isn't enough. they must be evaluated on this, every single person up
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the chain. i want to touch on another topic. family members who live in this housing, there is no safe level of lad, especially for children to be exposed to. none. are we doing anything to track the children who have lived and the family members who have lived in these houses? in these housing units? are we maintaining a database, so that we can track their health over the course of their lifetime, so they can receive benefits and or health care, over the course of their lifetime? we know, children cannot be exposed to any level of lead safely, so what are we doing to protect those children, and the family members who have lived in these housing units? >> senator, we have the army health registry. when family members come forward and put that in the database, we can capture that data and track it, in each of these cases.
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>> is that part of the briefing for every family member? that you should come forward? you should know and be able to track and have records of every single family member who has lived in every single one of these units in order to track them. i don't see why we are putting the responsibility on family members. they have a lot on their plates already. certainly, the contractors do, because we are paying them for, it so they know who lives in these housing units. why aren't we maintaining this? if we done this for any services? a database? >> senator, we are capturing that information an individual health records for members and their families. the challenge we have as they go out, and they go outside of the military health systems, for their health care, we don't have an ability to get that. we are developing a database to look
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at that. >> i am talking about, you know who has lived in these housing units. you can go back into the housing records, not medical records, housing records. you can make a list of every person. we know everyone who has been at fort bliss, fort bragg, why don't we have a list of every single person that is lived in these units? we have them. don't put it on the family members, and on the medical side, to wait until health condition happens. do it on the front end so that later on when a child has a problem, they can say i was at fort bragg, they are in the system already without having to come forward. i am out of time. i yield. thank you, senator duckworth. >> any other members? any other comments? first of all, as i mentioned in my opening statement, we will have another hearing as early as possible next year, and an amendment will be needed for the
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companies, maybe some of the new ones that seem to be this problem in the services, so that you can let us know and we can reflect on, if we ever get our nda a pass, and we are out of time, so that is a serious problem. i want to thank, the large number of people went to a lot of inconvenience to be here, you have been heard, and you have heard us. i appreciate very much for being here. the record will stay open until close of business, wednesday december 4th for any additional questions. respond no later than friday december 20th. do i have your commitment to respond to the committees additional questions by that time? all of you are nodding. i appreciate it very much, i appreciate your testimony, and i thank you very much. we are adjourned.
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>> good afternoon and welcome to the hudson institute. i myself am a visitor here. i'm the vice president of the east-west center and senior advisor to the center for naval analysis here i'm delighted to have been asked to moderate this panel with this distinguished group of experts on the indo-pacific region. a real mover and


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