Senator Reverend Warnock Presses Defense Department to Protect Georgia Servicemembers, Military Families from Inadequate Private Base Housing

Senator Reverend Warnock led 16 Senators in effort to protect servicemembers from flawed base housing conditionsenhance federal oversight of military housing operated by private housing contractors following settlement

On December 22, 2021, the Department of Justice announced housing contractor Balfour Beatty Communities LLC (BBC) pleaded guilty to major fraud against the U.S. government for failure to maintain adequate military base housing conditions and communicate tenant rights to servicemembers

BBC manages housing communities at 55 military installations in U.S., including Fort Gordon, Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield, Moody Air Force Base, and Kings Bay Naval Station

Following $65 million settlement, the Senators are pushing for greater transparency over all private housing contractors to protect military families from inadequate living conditions and increase servicemember trust in private housing contracting operations

Senator Reverend Warnock,Lawmakers: “Our nation’s servicemembers and military families deserve to live in quality housing and trust that the U.S. government and private contractors will be responsive, respectful, and committed to meeting their needs”

Washington, D.C. — Following a recent $65 million settlement between the U.S. government and a private housing company guilty of fraudulent and untruthful monetizing practices, today U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) led a new oversight effort to protect the nation’s servicemembers from unsanitary, unsafe living conditions at military base housing facilities operated by Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC) LLC.

In a new letter to the Department of Defense, Senator Warnock and 16 of his Senate colleagues asked the Department to provide additional information regarding how it will conduct proper oversight of BBC’s private military housing communities after the company pleaded guilty to falsifying upkeep and resident satisfaction records, and neglecting servicemembers’ maintenance requests. The Senators’ letter pushes the Department of Defense for solutions in light of the recent settlement that will further protect servicemembers from poor and unkempt private housing, and regain servicemembers’ trust in BBC’s privately-owned housing units across the country.

“Given that BBC continues to manage housing communities at 55 installations across the nation and has several decades left on their long-term contracts, we ask the following questions about how this settlement will affect the management of these properties and how DoD plans to ensure quality housing for military families moving forward,” the Senators wrote. 

The DoJ resolution with BBC could impact multiple military installations across Georgia including: Fort Gordon, Fort Benning, Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield, Moody Air Force Base, and Kings Bay Naval Station. Senator Warnock continues to champion the voices and concerns of our nation’s servicemembers and military communities after recently securing millions for Georgia’s military priorities in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senator Warnock is also working to address ongoing issues at the Atlanta VA and improve disparities in care for veterans.

“Our servicemembers and military families, who so dutifully serve our nation, shouldn’t have to worry about having safe, secure housing. It is shameful they had to deal with these poor living conditions in the first place. Housing is dignity, and I will continue pushing the federal government to make sure we’re doing everything we can to provide our courageous men and women in uniform, and their families, with the resources and support they need not just to live, but thrive,” Senator Reverend Warnock added.

Senator Warnock’s led letter was signed by 16 Senators including: U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

READ the full letter HERE or below:  

January 25, 2022 

Dear Secretary Austin,

We write regarding current Department of Defense (DoD) oversight of private housing contractors in the wake of the recent Department of Justice (DoJ) settlement with Balfour Beatty Communities LLC.

On December 22, 2021, the Department of Justice announced that the housing contractor Balfour Beatty Communities LLC (BBC) pleaded guilty to major fraud against the U.S. government and agreed to pay $65 million in fines and restitution. Following national publicity of pervasive concerns with privatized on-post military housing in 2018, the Department of Defense took steps to hold housing contractors to account for their failures to maintain adequate housing conditions for military families and to communicate with servicemembers and their families their rights. Congress also endeavored to improve military housing with the “Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act” as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Authorization Act. Despite these efforts, concerns persist, and bases and families continue to file lawsuits against the companies, including BBC, for many issues, including for repair delays, toxic mold, pests, unsealed windows and doors, and gas leaks.  We cannot expect our nation’s military families to suffer these conditions.    

In the DoJ release concerning the BBC plea and settlement, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said, “Instead of promptly repairing housing for U.S. servicemembers as required, BBC lied about the repairs to pocket millions of dollars in performance bonuses. This pervasive fraud was a consequence of BBC’s broken corporate culture, which valued profit over the welfare of servicemembers.” According to the release, for over six years, BBC employees falsified information to allow BBC to claim incentive fees for performance objectives primarily related to housing upkeep and resident satisfaction that had, in fact, not been met. These actions resulted in maintenance delays and an inability of the military services to accurately conduct oversight of the company and correct performance.

Given that BBC continues to manage housing communities at 55 installations across the nation and has several decades left on their long-term contracts, we ask the following questions about how this settlement will affect the management of these properties and how DoD plans to ensure quality housing for military families moving forward.

  • How will the December 2021 Department of Justice settlement with BBC affect the company’s current contracts with the Department of Defense?
  • According to the Department of Justice release, the settlement with BBC includes three years of probation and engagement with an independent compliance monitor. What does this mean for BBC’s current contracts at 55 installations? 
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure similar fraudulent behavior will not happen again?
  • Does the Department of Defense plan to renegotiate or alter any of the existing terms of long-term contracts with private housing contractors to provide for more immediate and comprehensive oversight?
  • How does the Department of Defense plan to instill trust in military families that BBC and others will meet their housing needs?
  • What actions will the Department take to ensure BBC and other privatized housing companies are providing a sufficient quantity of quality housing for military families at bases where there is a serious need for additional housing? Has the Department considered increasing competition by allowing multiple companies to operate on bases, or by other means, to improve the availability and quality of housing for military families?

Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical issue. Our nation’s servicemembers and military families deserve to live in quality housing and trust that the U.S. government and private contractors will be responsive, respectful, and committed to meeting their needs.

Sincerely,

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