The lawmakers’ letter comes after a recent GAO report revealed DOD is failing to provide basic oversight & care of barracks housing thousands of junior servicemembers
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Jen Kiggans (R-VA) led a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress calling on the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to immediately improve conditions at barracks facilities at ten installations. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that due to DOD’s failures to provide proper oversight and care of the facilities, thousands of junior servicemembers live in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.
“We write to express our profound concern and disappointment regarding the conditions that thousands of junior enlisted Service members are experiencing in barracks across the country,” wrote the lawmakers to DOD Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. “This is a failure of leadership that cannot be ignored.”
The GAO report found that junior servicemembers are living in rooms overrun with mold, with doors that do not lock, without air conditioning or heat, without access to clean drinking water, and a lack of functioning plumbing. In some instances, the GAO report revealed additional serious safety and health concerns, including squatters moving into the living spaces and requirements that servicemembers be responsible for “cleaning biological waste that may remain in a barracks room after a suicide.”
“This is reprehensible, and we expect you to take expeditious and appropriate action to hold those personnel accountable and ensure Service members are receiving the support they might require after that experience,” continued the lawmakers. “It is clear that there are failures at all levels. Across the enterprise, personnel are shirking their responsibilities to provide Service members with safe, habitable living spaces.”
The Members of Congress pressed DOD to swiftly adopt the recommendations of the GAO report and to submit updated DOD habitability guidelines before the FY25 budget request to ensure improved living standards.
“The people who choose to serve in the enlisted ranks do so selflessly with little expectation of reward. They are the soul of the military and of the Nation, and they deserve better,” wrote the lawmakers. “We trust that you will move decisively to ensure each junior enlisted member of the Armed Forces has a safe, habitable room to return to when the duty day ends.”
Blumenthal, Panetta, and Kiggans were joined in sending the letter by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and U.S. Representatives Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Nick LaLota (R-NY), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), Nancy Mace (R-SC), and Mark Alford (R-MO).
The full text of the letter can be found here.