Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today renewed her called for the Senate Armed Services Committee to include language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would reform how problems are addressed at military housing sites across the country.
“The Armed Services Committee next week will mark up the National Defense Authorization Act. I’m hopeful the committee will include in the base bill my legislation to reform how private contractors handle issues with military housing.
“Privatized military housing is facing more and more problems, and our service members are suffering the consequences, in some instances with little or no way to remedy the situation. Problems have been related to health, safety and environmental hazards and have been found in military housing across the country.
“Private contractors that manage military housing have a responsibility to provide safe housing, but too often they’re failing in that mission. The Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, introduced in March, would require that base commanders withhold payment to contractors until a military housing official and the service member who lives in problematic housing agree that problems have been remedied.
“If this language is included in the base NDAA, I believe it will improve the quality of life for many members of the military and their families.”
Senator Feinstein and nine other senators in March called on the committee to include the language in the NDAA.
The legislation creates oversight mechanisms that will allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees from poorly performing contractors.
Provisions of the bill include:
- Basic allowance for housing: The installation commander shall withhold payment of a service member’s housing allowance until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the service member concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the service member to leave the housing unit, the housing company will pay all relocation costs.
- Housing costs: Prohibits payment of a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse service members for damage to their private property caused by a hazard.
- Withholding incentive fees: Requires the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.
- Common credentials: Creates standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices.
- Additional transparency for service members: Requires the Defense Department to establish an electronic system so that service members can track and oversee their work orders.
Cosponsors of the bill include Senators Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The bill is supported by the Military Officers Association of America and National Military Family Association.