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‘This is a national security issue:’ New measure to improve military barracks’ conditions

WASHINGTON — From pest infestations to overflowing sewage, some junior enlisted service members living in military barracks have been subjected to these unsafe living conditions.

We told you how these problems were revealed in a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report last year that said the poor conditions “pose potentially serious health and safety risks.”

The report said investigators found mold and mildew growth, inoperable fire systems, and water damage, among other problems.

Now, a new measure that was part of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aims to help fix these housing problems.

The provision is part of the bipartisan Military Facilities Upgrades Act, which gives commanders on military bases more flexibility to invest in resources to improve poor conditions in the barracks.

The measure was led by Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

“This new law that I’ve passed will help upgrade, renovate and improve the quality of barracks for enlisted personnel,” Ossoff told our Washington News Bureau.

Ossoff pointed to security concerns with poor living conditions for active-duty service members.

“This is a national security issue,” said Ossoff. “When there are health and safety issues, mold, when the structures are crumbling, that directly impacts military readiness. It directly impacts the morale of military units, and it directly impacts our ability to recruit and retain talented young people in the Armed Forces.”

“Addressing military base housing concerns for Oklahoma military installations is a priority for me as I work to sustain our Armed Forces and keep them the greatest fighting force in the world,” said Lankford. “I’m glad this year’s defense bill includes my legislation with Senator Ossoff to be sure we provide our warfighters quality housing and infrastructure and timely address any maintenance needs, no matter where they serve. Oklahoma’s five military installations have incredible patriots serving our nation every day. We must make sure Congress and the Pentagon remember the families and basic needs of our servicemen and women as they serve.”

The problem of poor conditions at military barracks has gotten the attention of both parties and both chambers.

In October, we spoke with Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), who sent a letter to the Defense Department asking what the DoD is doing to address the housing problems.

“As a veteran and a retired Colonel, 27 years as a Green Beret, I’m upset about it,” said Waltz in October. “It’s not some cracks in the tile. This is mold that has caused people to go to the hospital. We’re talking about sewage leakages, gas leakages.”

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