Two California senators have sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis seeking answers following a blockbuster investigative story by Reuters detailing substandard living conditions in military base housing.
The letter was also addressed to Tim Byrne, the CEO of Lincoln Military Housing. According to Reuters, Lincoln controls much of the base housing on Camp Pendleton, California, one of the bases mentioned in the story dealing with mice and mold infestations.
California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala D. Harris said in the letter that they were “deeply concerned and disappointed about recent reports of unsuitable housing conditions at Camp Pendleton.”
In an interview with more than 100 military families, Reuters detailed decrepit living conditions and mold, mice and cockroach infestations in base military base housing.
Lincoln Military Housing told Marine Corps Times that mold issues made up less than 1 percent of requests it received in 2017. Most complaints were resolved to “everyone’s satisfaction,” the company said, noting and that mold, mildew and water intrusion problems are handled as emergency requests.
Lincoln added that the homes mentioned in the Reuters story were just a tiny fraction of the 37,000 homes it manages.
Reuters also described limited legal recourse military families have when dealing with powerful private military companies. Civilian tenants or off-base residents often have the option to sue, move, or withhold rent for repairs.
“When families have concerns or problems, there is a clear process for escalating complaints to our company and other private partners, housing officers in the military, and ultimately the base command,” Lincoln Military Housing said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times.
Lincoln added that while their homes “are high quality, they are not fortresses and are affected by Mother Nature just like any other home or building.”
With "more than 7,000 family housing units at Camp Pendleton, the potential impact to families is immense and alarming,” the letter from the California senators reads.
The senators requested responses to their questions from Lincoln housing and the Defense Department by Nov. 15:
• Will Lincoln Military Housing and the DoD provide a coordinated strategy to remedy the problems that have been allowed to persist in Camp Pendleton’s military housing?
• Will Lincoln Military Housing and the DoD provide a coordinated assessment of other military bases where similar corrective actions should be implemented?
• Will the DOD provide a plan to ensure that those impacted by these conditions receive medical treatment?
• Will the DOD provide recommendations on policy or legislative solutions to allow for greater accountability in public-private housing partnerships?
• Will the DOD provide a report on military housing partner companies that have similarly been unable to meet the minimum health and safety standards expected for military families?
“We welcome the interest of public officials in learning the facts about the housing and services we provide to military families and look forward to working with them and other stakeholders to ensure the best experience possible for our resident families,” Lincoln Military Housing previously told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.