Lawmakers from both parties raised concerns about the state of privatized military housing during a Senate hearing Tuesday.
Sen. Thom Tillis and others on the Senate Armed Services panel said while progress has been made, it has not been enough.
“When do we finally look at these contracting vendors … and say, you know, it's time just to recognize you’re in breach of contract?” said the North Carolina Republican.
“I am still not convinced these private companies are doing everything in their power and investing as much as they can to improve the quality of homes for our military,” said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top-ranking Democrat on the panel.
At Tuesday’s hearing, a government watchdog laid out the challenges families have faced.
“We heard from military families who reported mold throughout their homes, rodent infestations, and other serious problems like gas and carbon monoxide leaks and repeated sewage leaks,” said Elizabeth Field with the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Several military leaders at the hearing told lawmakers they know there is a problem, and outlined steps they are taking to address it.
Sen. Tillis suggested during the hearing that it may be time to take action against some private contractors, such as in court or through mediation.
“I don’t want to all of a sudden let our passions sweep up private housing providers that seem to be doing a good job, trending the right direction,” he said. “But we probably need to make an example out of a couple of them.”
Tuesday’s hearing comes as a massive defense policy bill - the NDAA - remains in limbo on Capitol Hill. House and Senate versions of the legislation contained housing reforms, such as calling for the establishment of a ‘Tenant Bill of Rights.’
Speaking of the NDAA, Tillis said it is “very frustrating to see something that for nearly 58 years has not risen to a level of partisan bickering to get swept into this mess that we’re in here in Washington.”
Whether a deal on that bill will be reached remains to be seen.