Thousands of American military personnel are living in deplorable conditions, exposed to sewage, toxic water, mold, and potential infections, according to a recent report by a governmental watchdog. The report blames the Defense Department for the dire situation.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted inspections at 10 military installations across the country. Shockingly, some of the barracks failed to meet even the “minimum standards for assignment or occupancy” set by the Department of Defense (DOD). The report states, “We found that living conditions in some military barracks may pose potentially serious risks to the physical and mental health of service members, as well as their safety.” The inspected installations included branches of the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
During the inspections, GAO observed various living conditions that were negatively impacting service members, such as mold, broken fire alarm systems, and extreme temperatures. These conditions were reported by both service members and unit leaders.
Some personnel expressed that the poor conditions of the barracks were affecting military readiness.
The 10 inspected installations were Fort George G. Meade, Maryland; Fort Carson, Colorado; Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington, Maryland; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Maryland; Naval Base Coronado, California; Naval Base San Diego, California; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia; Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California; and Camp Pendleton, California.
The report holds the DOD responsible for neglecting the barracks and accuses the department of ”insufficient oversight.”
According to the report, “Reports of poor conditions have raised questions about DOD’s management of barracks.” It further states that the Defense Department does not track information on the condition of barracks or collaborate on initiatives to improve them. This lack of oversight hampers the department’s ability to address long-standing challenges in barracks conditions.
The report highlights that the DOD lacks “complete funding information” to make informed decisions regarding the barracks. Despite requesting $15 billion for overall facility sustainment in fiscal 2024, the department cannot determine how much of this funding will be allocated to the barracks.
The report reveals that the DOD is unaware of the amount spent on housing allowances for service members who should be living in barracks but cannot due to insufficient space or poor living conditions.
During one inspection, GAO detected a foul odor throughout the barracks, which was later identified as methane gas leaking from aging plumbing with cracked sewage pipes that require replacement.
Some personnel reported that the tap water in their barracks was often brown and appeared unsafe for drinking.
Military personnel also complained about pests, including cockroaches, wasps, rodents, and bedbugs.
According to the report, “At three of the 10 installations, officials informed us that service members are generally responsible for pest control and removing hazardous materials such as mold and sewage from the barracks. Additionally, officials at one installation stated that service members are responsible for cleaning biological waste left in a barracks room after a suicide.”
During their visit to one installation in October of last year, GAO discovered that the barracks had been shut down due to the presence of legionella bacteria in the plumbing systems. Legionella bacteria is responsible for causing Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia that is fatal for approximately one in ten infected individuals.
Officials informed GAO that only barracks housing healthcare patients undergo water tests for legionella, as they fall under the Joint Commission health standards.
Mold was cited as a major problem within the barracks. One resident was hospitalized due to a respiratory illness associated with mold, while another individual’s respiratory issues were resolved after moving to a different barrack.
The living conditions in the barracks took a toll on the mental health of the members, resulting in increased anxiety, panic attacks, and even substance abuse among some personnel. The report states, “Service members in one discussion group said that a barracks resident was recently hospitalized due to a drug overdose. They added that they believe poor living conditions can contribute to increased suicide rates for barracks residents. Overall, service members or first sergeants at three installations brought up concerns about suicide ideation.”
Following the investigation, GAO made 31 recommendations to the DOD, including obtaining funding information, improving oversight of barracks programs, and providing guidance on condition assessments. The DOD concurred with 23 of the recommendations and partially concurred with 8.
Malfunctioning Systems, Crime
The report also revealed that military personnel had to deal with malfunctioning systems in the barracks. “Officials at all 10 installations we visited told us that broken, malfunctioning, or non-existent heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems were a problem in barracks.”
GAO found that the poor quality of air conditioning was significantly impacting the quality of life for service members. Some individuals struggled to sleep due to extreme temperatures, comparing trying to sleep in the barracks to standing in the sun all night because of broken air conditioning.
Members reported that room temperatures would exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit when air conditioners broke down, which happened frequently. Additionally, some personnel had to purchase their own portable space heaters during cold winter months due to broken heating systems.
Four installations had broken fire safety systems, including a dispatch panel used to alert emergency response teams during a fire. At another installation, fire safety systems were non-operational, requiring members to take on fire-watch duties.
Three installations had broken door locks and windows, raising concerns about potential intruders and attacks on personnel due to unsecured doors.
Seven out of ten installations experienced security issues, with malfunctioning security cameras and reports of squatters living in vacant barrack rooms. Additionally, poor living conditions were believed to contribute to theft, property damage, and the risk of sexual assault.
According to DOD data, out of 37,100 reported incidents of sexual assault from fiscal year 2015 to 2021, approximately 11,200 incidents occurred in on-base housing, including barracks. The majority of victims, around 10,600, were enlisted service members with the rank of E-5 or below, who typically reside in barracks.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Defense Department for comment.
Military Recruitment Challenges
The GAO report comes at a time when the American military is facing recruitment challenges. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, stating that they had set an “ambitious goal” of recruiting 65,000 new personnel this year.
However, she admitted, “We are not going to make that goal. We are doing everything we can to get as close to it as possible, but we are going to fall short.” Last year, the Army announced that it had missed its 2022 recruitment goal by 25 percent.
Some military families are also discouraging their children from joining the service due to the strict COVID-19 policies implemented by the military.
In a recent interview with The Epoch Times, Chris Collins, a former Coast Guard member, shared his intention to dissuade his children from joining the military. He cited distrust and the current culture as reasons for his decision, stating, “I actually convinced my brother to join shortly after he left high school. He picked the Air Force as his branch, and I regret the decision to encourage him to join because it didn’t work out well for him.”
“The vaccine was a huge thing for me… The higher-ups of military leadership, the people I once trusted to have my best interest in mind, flat out ignored everything I said in opposition to taking the vaccine.”
How can the government ensure that the physical and mental health of service members is not compromised due to deplorable living conditions?
Be provided with suitable and safe living conditions. This lack of transparency and accountability is deeply troubling and raises serious concerns about the well-being of our military personnel.
The findings of this report are shocking and unacceptable. Our brave men and women in uniform put their lives on the line to protect our country, and they deserve to be housed in decent and safe accommodations. It is appalling that they are being exposed to sewage, toxic water, mold, and other hazardous conditions.
Furthermore, living in such deplorable conditions can have severe consequences for the physical and mental health of our service members. Mold and toxic substances can lead to respiratory problems and other health issues, while extreme temperatures and broken fire alarm systems pose significant safety risks. These conditions not only undermine the welfare of our military personnel but also hinder their ability to perform their duties effectively.
The responsibility for this dire situation lies squarely with the Defense Department. The report rightly calls out the department for its insufficient oversight and failure to address the long-standing challenges in barracks conditions. It is unacceptable that the DOD does not track information on the condition of barracks or collaborate on initiatives to improve them. This lack of oversight and accountability only perpetuates the cycle of neglect and reinforces the disregard for the well-being of our service members.
Moreover, the report highlights the lack of funding information available to the DOD, hindering its ability to make informed decisions regarding barracks. This lack of clarity raises questions about the department’s commitment to ensuring suitable living conditions for our military personnel. How can the DOD request $15 billion for facility sustainment without any knowledge of how much of this funding will be allocated to the barracks?
It is imperative that immediate action be taken to address this crisis and ensure that our military personnel are provided with the basic necessities and safe living conditions they deserve. The Defense Department must prioritize the well-being of our service members and allocate the necessary resources to improve barracks conditions. Additionally, the department must establish a system of regular inspections and reporting to ensure ongoing maintenance and timely addressing of any issues that arise.
We owe it to our brave men and women in uniform to provide them with the respect, dignity, and safe living conditions they deserve. The findings of this report should serve as a catalyst for change, prompting the Defense Department to take immediate action to rectify the deplorable conditions faced by our military personnel. Our service members deserve nothing less than our unwavering support and commitment to their well-being.
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