FORT GORDON, Georgia (WJBF) – Following what some may call a “scathing” report by the Senate, The U.S. Army is launching a new probe into living conditions at privatized housing at Fort Gordon.
According to the press release, the report says that a top service official has stated that one of the military’s largest housing providers continues to ignore residents’ concerns about mold, asbestos and other problems.
Systemic issues with on-base military housing run by private companies, which include widespread mold, rodent infestations, dangerous wiring and shoddy repairs first came to light in a series of Reuters articles in 2018.
The press release states that Rachel Jacobson, the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, says that she finds the Senate report about conditions at Balfour Beatty Communities “very disturbing.”
“I take very seriously any report of substandard conditions that compromise the life, health and safety of soldiers and families,” Jacobson says. “The day after the report was released, I wrote to Balfour Beatty indicating that I directed an immediate investigation at Fort Gordon to be overseen by the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command.”
Jacobson also says that the Army is auditing Balfour Beatty’s property management records at Fort Gordon and suspending any requests for performance bonuses, and she is also asking the service’s top lawyer to provide a “comprehensive legal opinion outlining all enforcement options available under the law,” including “an assessment of when we can amend contracts with privatizing housing providers to give us additional leverage.”
“And if we conclude from this assessment that we need additional legislative authorities to strengthen oversight and impose greater consequences, we will work with Congress toward that goal,” Jacobson says.
According to the press release, Jacobson’s comments come after the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations last month released a report, followed the next day by a hearing, that detailed residents’ struggles to get Balfour Beatty to respond to their requests to remediate dangerous and unhealthy living conditions.
The company provides housing to 150,000 military residents in 26 states, but the report focused largely on Fort Gordon in the home state of subcommittee Chairman Senator Jon Ossoff (Democrat-GA).
According to the report, the issues that were detailed came after Balfour Beatty pleaded guilty to fraud tied to conditions in military housing it managed over a prior six-year period.
According to the press release, Balfour Beatty pleaded guilty in December to defrauding the Army, Air Force and Navy after having been found to have manipulated maintenance records from 2013 to 2019 to obtain performance bonuses as a housing management contractor, and as part of the plea, the company agreed to pay $65 million in fines and restitution.
Lawmakers have stated that they are unsatisfied with the military services’ efforts to fix the issues.
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