Lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Patty Murray of Washington, have intensified their efforts to address substandard housing conditions for military personnel, including those at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The push follows concerns over mold, lead-based paint, and asbestos in housing facilities.
Sen. Murray, alongside Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine, Richard Blumenthal, Tammy Duckworth, and Mazie Hirono, penned a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. It urged the DoD to disclose plans to tackle these issues and enhance oversight of privatized housing for service members.
The lawmakers highlighted longstanding concerns about the prevalence of hazards like mold and the challenges faced by military families in resolving disputes with private housing companies. Instances, such as a military spouses reporting mold-related health issues at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, underscore the urgency of addressing these problems.
Efforts to reform housing accountability, initiated in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, have not been adequately executed by the DoD. The failure to implement reforms has left military families struggling, with an Army audit revealing insufficient safety measures in homes regarding asbestos and lead-based paint.
Additionally, concerns about mold persist, with a significant number of military families reporting exposure to environmental toxins in their residences. The establishment of a dispute resolution process by the DoD has not assuaged worries, with families expressing reservations about confidentiality clauses and the process favoring housing companies.
In their letter, the lawmakers emphasized the necessity for DoD reforms to regain trust and confidence among military families. They stressed that confidentiality clauses should not be mandatory for those utilizing the dispute resolution process, urging the DoD to improve the system's transparency and effectiveness.
Senator Murray's recent efforts also include addressing housing issues at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, underlining the need for repairs.