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Report reveals poor living conditions at military barracks are impacting readiness, mental health

WASHINGTON — Overflowing sewage, mold and pest infestations – those are just some of the poor living conditions active-duty service members are facing while living in military barracks, according to a new watchdog report.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals investigators found mold and mildew growth, inoperable fire systems and water damage, among other problems.

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“Service members reported to GAO that the conditions of barracks affect their quality of life and readiness,” the report said.

The barracks are where enlisted U.S. service members live at the start of their military careers, and they largely house junior-enlisted service members.

GAO said the problem comes down to chronic under funding and a lack of oversight by the Defense Department.

“The Defense Department has just not put as much money into sustaining these facilities doing maintenance and upkeep as it needs to,” said Elizabeth Field, a Director with GAO’s Defense Capabilities and Management Team.

GAO investigators met and spoke with service members living at the barracks.

“So many of them were open about how their mental health had been negatively impacted by living in the barracks,” said Field. “It was causing many of them to rethink whether they wanted to reenlist because of the poor conditions of their barracks.”

This latest report comes after our Washington News Bureau’s in-depth investigation revealed widespread unsafe living conditions at privatized military housing.

Unlike privatized military housing which is operated by private housing companies, the barracks are primarily run by the government.

Over the last year, our Washington News Bureau has spoken with military families around the country about these housing problems.

“It doesn’t matter if the housing is government owned or privatized if no one is paying attention, if appropriate funding isn’t given to maintain the facilities, you’re going to end up with the same poor living conditions,” said Field.

The report lists 31 recommendations for the DOD.

That includes providing guidance on barracks condition assessments, obtaining complete funding information, and increasing oversight.

The Defense Department concurred or partially concurred with all of them and said it’s working on making the changes.

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