Castro Statement on Unethical Scheme at Lackland Air Force Base, Urges Improvements for Military Housing
SAN ANTONIO—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, released the following statement today and sent a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, in response to reports about an unethical scheme at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where bosses pressured employees to forge maintenance records for military housing and other salient projects, in order to collect millions in bonuses:
“The corrupt scheme at Lackland Air Force Base is a direct affront to our military families. Forging maintenance records in order to take home millions in bonuses is the definition of immoral. No family should have to live with the threat of asbestos, mold, or worry whether their home is secure if disaster strikes. But the sheer fact that it is our military families who are living under these substandard, appalling conditions, after the sacrifice they have made for our country, is a disgrace. All of this maintenance work would have been handled, if not for this fraudulent scheme to steal resources away from our military service men and women. Enough is enough. Balfour Betty Communities’ employees must be investigated and held to account.
“I sent a letter today calling for the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to support reforms for private military housing. Congress must eradicate these horrific housing conditions and protect our military families from this unethical scheme.
“Recently, my constituents identified these deplorable housing conditions on Joint Base San Antonio. I immediately began to address these unacceptable realities our military families were struggling to deal with on a daily basis. We also made our staff available to the Military Housing Network to ensure we could get after the housing issue with the help of other advocacy groups. I will continue to make sure that our service men and women have adequate and acceptable housing both in my district and across the nation.”
Background: Recent reports confirm that Balfour Beatty Communities, a company that provides housing to U.S. military families, faked maintenance records to keep millions of dollars in performance bonuses. Employees have admitted to forging records to make it appear Balfour completed maintenance work that in some cases was never finished. This follows widespread reporting on dilapidated conditions in family housing across many U.S. military bases. Congress has written language in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to ensure increased accountability for the private landlords who run the facilities.
Full text of the letter, below:
November 25, 2019
Dear Chairmen Inhofe and Smith and Ranking Members Reed and Thornberry:
We can all agree that our servicemen and women and their families deserve safe and quality housing that is sufficient for their needs and managed by responsible agents. Unfortunately, we continue to hear about the widespread health, safety and environmental hazards found in privatized military housing. In my own district employees of private companies have admitted to forging records to ensure their employers make millions of dollars while failing to provide for the most basic maintenance requirements. This is abhorrent.
I continue to harbor concerns that the Department of Defense, the military services, installation commanders, and housing officials have not provided sufficient oversight to ensure this housing crisis will be remedied. Therefore, it is imperative that the language reforming the Military Housing Privatization Initiative in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act be retained and implemented. This language will force the necessary changes in the MHPI program.
As you enter conference negotiations, I ask that at a minimum the following provisions remain in the final agreement:
- Require the military services to establish a tenants’ bill of rights for residents of privatized military family housing.
- Require the Secretary of Defense to develop an assessment tool to identify and measure health and safety hazards in housing.
- Prohibit the use of non-disclosure agreements in connection with entering into, continuing, or terminating a lease for on-base military housing.
- Authorize an additional $140.8 million to hire additional civilian personnel to improve oversight and management of military family housing.
- Create a public database for complaints related to military housing, require annual financial audits of randomly selected privatized military family housing, and annual congressional reports on the condition, maintenance, and management of privatized military family housing.
The privatized military housing system requires urgent action. These committees’ leadership is necessary to ensure a fundamental right to all of those who serve on our behalf - The right to be secure and safe in the sanctity of one’s own home.
Member of Congress
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