May 01, 2019

Senator Warren Releases Her Investigation of the Pentagon's Substandard Military Base Housing Program

Key findings reveal how and why private military housing developers have failed to meet basic housing standards, which in some cases, resulted in severe health problems for military families; Warren has introduced legislation to fix the program's shortcomings and empower military families.

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today released the findings from her three-month long investigation of the deeply flawed Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) and of five private companies that have contracts with the military services to provide on-base housing under the program. She sent 11-page letters to SASC Chairman James Inhofe and Ranking Member Jack Reed, and to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, to provide each with the results of her investigation, which she opened amid reports of substandard on-base housing that was having a significant effect on morale and, in some cases, causing severe health problems for military families.

"The nation's service members and their families need and deserve high-quality housing, and the documented failures of private housing companies to meet basic standards is unacceptable, hurts families, and damages morale," Senator Warren concluded in her letters. "My investigation has revealed a series of problems and failures in the basic structure of the MHPI program and in the administration and oversight of this program by the private housing companies and the DoD."

Senator Warren's investigation, which included a review of thousands of pages of documents and information from the five private housing contractors, revealed four main problems with the MHPI program:

  1. The private military housing providers have set up a complicated web of subcontractors and subsidiaries that makes it hard for tenants and military departments to hold companies accountable for substandard conditions in military housing and makes it difficult to track revenues, profits, and the flow of funds.

  2. The private military housing providers have failed to create accessible or centralized records and protocols to address complaints about military housing providers, making comprehensive assessment and oversight of their performance difficult and complicating efforts to improve housing quality.

  3. Private housing providers are making large profits on their investments in military housing while taking minimal risks, an issue Senator Warren addressed with the providers during a February 13, 2019 SASC hearing about the program.

  4. The companies and their subsidiaries are receiving sizeable incentive fees even when they face substantial quality control challenges and provide substandard housing.

To ensure that military families have the safe, clean housing that they deserve, Senator Warren recently introduced the Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act, legislation that would provide solutions to substandard military housing and empower service members and their families by: 1) requiring the Department to establish guidance for how it enters and renews housing contracts and standardizes all lease agreements it signs; 2) guaranteeing medical care for affected service members and their families; 3) establishing tenant protections that give service members and families a stronger voice in dealing with private housing companies; 4) creating a new complaint database accessible to all tenants; and 5) requiring the disclosure of contracts and financial statements from each housing provider.

Senator Warren asked the Army, Navy, and Air Force Secretaries to take immediate action to address the problems she identified. And she wrote to SASC Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed that "Each of the problems I identify can be addressed (by) ... the Military Housing Oversight and Service Member Protection Act. I look forward to working with you and other Committee members to resolve these problems and improve housing quality for service members and their families" through the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.