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March 07, 2019

King Seeks Accountability for Safe Housing for Servicemembers and Families

“You Need One Throat To Choke,” says Senator - to hold officials responsible for unhealthy, substandard housing Senator also proposes “Rat App” to use technology for rapid-response to complaints

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) pressed top military officials to provide thorough oversight to ensure American servicemembners and their families have access to safe military housing. Speaking to U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, U.S Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, and U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson, Senator King pushed for greater accountability in the military to address the significant housing troubles facing many military families at privatized, on-base housing.

“Let’s say you had a perfect contract, but if it’s not enforced, if it’s not managed properly by the service, then it’s still not going to work,” questioned Senator King. “There has to be somebody either at the base, and I don’t know the answer to this, or at the Pentagon – I would think at the base – who is responsible and who is accountable for the enforcement of this contract. My old management theory is you need one throat to choke. Somebody – one person – who is accountable, and I hope that is part of your discussion.” (01:08)

Later in his questioning, Senator King advocated for the increased usage of handheld technology to improve military repair protocols.  “You could develop a, I would call it a, “Rat App” where the tenant can take a picture, send it, it would automatically go to the person managing the contract, and the contractor,” suggested King.  “A clock would start running and there would be a way of keeping track of whether that repair was made, and how it was made, and how soon it was made. This is something that’s within the realm of our capability these days.” (03:31)

In recent months, military spouses and servicemembers have reported horrific living conditions in privatized, on-base housing that include mold contamination, dangerous temperatures, and pest infestations. During the hearing, Senator King underscored the importance of proper enforcement of the housing contracts to ensure both private housing contractors and the military service branches are held accountable and can provide high-quality housing options for servicemembers. At the end of his questioning, Senator King requested the witnesses submit copies of residential leasing contracts to the Congressional Record.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King is recognized as a thoughtful voice on national security and foreign policy issues in the Senate. In addition to his committee work, he serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group, and the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

Other witnesses before the Senate Armed Services Committee today include General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the Army, Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. 

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