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US troops describe life in military barracks as ‘continuous misery’ |  National


(The Center Square) – Sewer backups and inoperable fire systems are among the safety risks facing U.S. service members living in barracks, according to a new report on how such conditions harm safety. quality of life and military readiness.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the Pentagon’s assessments of conditions in barracks “are unreliable” and “observed barracks that pose potentially serious health and safety risks – such as broken windows and inoperable fire systems – and which do not meet minimum requirements (U.S. Department of Defense). of Defense) regarding confidentiality and configuration.”

“Thousands of soldiers live in substandard barracks,” according to the reportwhich was released on Tuesday.

Problems with barracks, where soldiers live during their initial training, have existed for decades. The Defense Department hasn’t fully funded its facilities program for years, leading to a backlog of at least $137 billion in deferred maintenance costs through fiscal 2020, the report says .

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the report troubling.

“The findings of this report are shameful and troubling for the future of our force,” Wicker said. “Our military members deserve a safe place to live and work. Failing to meet this basic necessity harms readiness and discourages recruiting and retention. This year’s Senate NDAA would add increased oversight, establish habitability standards for basis and would add targeted funding to help address some of these issues. Rest assured that we are committed to ensuring these changes are implemented through the conference.

The U.S. military services generally require enlisted service members in certain ranks without dependents to live in barracks.

One of the problems is that barracks are often low on the priority list. But that’s not the only problem.

“The military services assess the condition of barracks by developing condition scores for each barrack, but condition scores are unreliable with respect to the condition of barracks,” according to the report. “Additionally, some barracks pose serious health and safety risks and do not meet DOD standards for privacy and configuration, such as size, number of bedrooms, and kitchen requirements.”

The military services calculate a condition score, which is a number between 0 and 100, for installations. But these scores did not always correspond to the conditions prevailing in the barracks.

“We observed barracks at seven of the ten military installations we visited that appeared to need significant improvements, despite being in condition above 80,” according to the Government Accountability Office report. “The scores indicated that the barracks were in fair or good condition. For example, during one installation, we visited a barracks that had been closed for renovation due to long-standing plumbing and electrical issues. According to Facility officials said the barracks were uninhabitable, however, at the time the barracks closed, its condition was above 90, according to department documents.

People living in the barracks said they sometimes lived in “unacceptable squalor” and “continuous misery,” according to the report.

On one site, the Government Accountability Office report states that “former residents of this barracks told us they experienced months of hot water interruptions and regularly dealt with clogged showers, broken door locks, broken elevators and apparent mold growth. like first sergeants or those in similar positions – who supervised the junior soldiers living in these barracks told us that the living conditions were unacceptable.

At another facility, with a score of 86, a quarter of the air conditioning units were not working.

“Military personnel we met at this installation described living in the barracks without air conditioning on hot days, especially after being outside all day working or training, as continued misery,” according to the report. .

The report finds the problems are widespread and, in some cases, dangerous.

“We found that living conditions in some military barracks may pose potentially serious risks to service members’ physical and mental health, as well as their safety,” according to the report. “During the site visits, we observed various living conditions that military personnel and unit leaders believed were negatively affecting them, such as the presence of mold, broken fire alarm systems, and extreme temperatures, among others .”

The problems listed in the Government Accountability Office’s 118-page report were numerous.

“First sergeants at one installation told us that an ex-spouse had broken in and physically assaulted a service member in the barracks and that poorly lit hallways, blind spots in hallways and hallways, and lack of security cameras made the barracks difficult to monitor,” according to the report.

The Government Accountability Office report made 31 recommendations to the Pentagon to improve conditions in the barracks.

“Poor living conditions at these installations affect the quality of life of service members and compromise readiness and the mission,” the report concluded. “Improving living conditions in barracks and addressing quality of life and morale issues associated with poor conditions is multifaceted – including funding, monitoring and collaboration – and to address these issues, the Ministry of Defense will have to take measures in several areas.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Housing Patricia Coury said in a response to the report that “corrective action plans for each recommendation will be developed by my office with input from the military departments.”