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Followup Audit on Department of Defense and Military Department Corrective Actions Taken in Response to Department of Defense Office of Inspector General Reports on Military Housing (DODIG-2020-086)

Audit

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Publicly Released: June 9, 2020

 

Objective

The objective of this followup audit was to determine whether the DoD corrected previously identified deficiencies related to policies and instructions, preventative maintenance, and environmental health and safety in selected prior military housing reports.

 

Background

The Military Housing Privatization Initiative was enacted on February 10, 1996, under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996. The Military Housing Privatization Initiative was developed to address two significant problems concerning housing for service members and their families. First, in 1996, over 50 percent of DoD‑owned housing units needed to be renovated or replaced due to insufficient maintenance or modernization. Second, there was a shortage of affordable housing of adequate quality in the private sector.

Between FYs 2014 and 2017, the DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued eight inspection reports addressing problems with DoD military housing. The objective of these inspections was to determine whether the DoD and Military Departments followed Federal and DoD environmental health and safety policies and standards for military housing.

The DoD OIG identified 110 recommendations (19 recommendations open and 91 recommendations closed) in the 8 reports. We selected a nonstatistical sample of 16 recommendations from 5 reports to assess whether policies and controls over the maintenance and inspection of Government‑owned and privatized housing were in place to ensure the safety of service members and their families. Of the 16 recommendations we reviewed, 10 recommendations remained open, and 6 recommendations were closed (3 recommendations were closed when the audit started and we followed up to verify that corrective action was taken and 3 recommendations will be closed as a result of the verification we performed during this audit.)

 

Findings

Although the DoD improved military housing with the implementation of corrective actions for 91 of 110 recommendations from 8 DoD OIG inspection reports, additional improvements are needed to ensure that service members and their families have access to safe housing. We reviewed 16 recommendations from 5 DoD OIG inspection reports and found that the DoD and Military Departments did not implement many of the corrective actions needed to improve military housing. While several corrective actions were taken related to health and safety policy for military housing, such as developing or revising DoD or Service‑level housing policies and procedures; completing repairs; and using a joint‑Service working group to identify improvements in facility inspection and maintenance programs across the DoD, many deficiencies in radon and mold remediation, comprehensive inspections, and repairs to identified healthy safety deficiencies still existed.

We determined that the DoD and Military Departments took corrective actions, such as updating housing policy and preparing inspection and maintenance plans, to address 6 of the 16 recommendations. For example, the DoD updated the Unified Facilities Code for fire protection standards and Fort Gordon established and implemented a radon assessment and mitigation plan. In addition, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, used a joint‑Service working group to identify improvements in facility inspection and maintenance programs across the DoD, and the Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling Commander took corrective actions to closed recommendations that required them to implement an asbestos management plan.

However, the DoD and Military Departments did not fully implement agreed‑upon corrective actions to address the remaining 10 recommendations. Specifically, we determined that the:

• Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installation, Energy, and Environment, did not issue revised guidance for control and remediation of mold and for radon evaluation and mitigation because of confusion over which office was responsible for implementing recommendations to issue policies on radon and mold and because issuing or updating guidance was not a high priority.

• Army did not perform two comprehensive and independent annual inspections to comply with all applicable health and safety requirements, as the Army stated it would in response to the recommendation. The Army did not inspect two installations in 2017 because of higher priority work or in 2018 because of a lack of funding. In addition, the inspections the Army performed in 2019 were not comprehensive because the Army chose to conduct inspections at four installations in two weeks, which limited their ability to assess all health, safety, and environmental areas.

 • Air Force did not perform any annual inspections to ensure that Air Force installations complied with all applicable health and safety requirements because it reallocated resources intended for issuing the contract for two inspections to repair hurricane damage at Tyndall Air Force Base that occurred in October 2018.

• Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling Commander did not take corrective actions to properly label electrical panels in a barracks because the Commander ranked properly labeling electrical panels as a low priority to be funded.

• Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling Commander made repairs to brighten hallway and room lighting that was too dim in the barracks; however, the repairs did not resolve the lighting deficiencies.

Overall, the DoD and Military Departments have made some improvements regarding military housing that are related to updating housing policy, using a joint‑Service working group to identify improvements in facility inspection and maintenance programs across the DoD, and preparing inspection and maintenance plans as a result of addressing recommendations in prior DoD OIG evaluation reports. However, many agreed‑upon recommendations related to the DoD or Service‑level housing policies and procedures; performing annual inspections; and completing repairs remain uncorrected by the DoD.

In addition, there are six open recommendations from previous DoD OIG inspection reports on housing covering issues related to policies and instructions, preventative maintenance, and environmental health and safety that also need to be addressed by DoD management. If DoD management does not address previous recommendations that were made to improve military housing, the DoD will continue to expose military families to health and safety hazards at installations around the world.

 

Recommendations

Although we are not making new recommendations, 10 of the 16 resolved recommendations we reviewed during this audit remain open. In addition, we encourage the DoD to implement corrective actions to address all 19 open recommendations (13 recommendations addressed in this report and 6 recommendations not addressed in this report) from previous DoD OIG reports. Specifically:

• 12 recommendations to update internal procedures or DoD‑wide guidance for military housing to ensure safe living standards for military families;

• 3 recommendations to address preventative maintenance (maintain equipment and facilities in satisfactory operating condition by systematic inspection, detection, and correction of failures either before they occur or before they become major defects); and

• 4 recommendations to address mold, asbestos, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls, radon, pest control, fire protection, electrical protection, and water quality issues.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Facilities Management; the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Housing and Partnerships); the Naval District Washington Commandant; and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Installations, Environment, and Energy), provided comments on our finding.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Facilities Management disagreed with the premise that they have not taken sufficient corrective action to close the recommendation. The Deputy Assistant Secretary explained that the Sustainment Management System Operations, Governance, and Configuration Support Panel is meeting quarterly and reviewing DoD OIG reports to ensure that items identified as deficiencies are included as items to be inspected and is working to identify technical and process improvements in facility inspection and maintenance programs.

We verified that the Sustainment Management System Operations, Governance, and Configuration Support Panel held periodically meetings starting in July 2019 and established a Technical Working Group to look at options to address DoD OIG report recommendations. The corrective actions taken since July 2019 met the intent of the recommendation to use a joint‑Service working group to identify improvements in facility inspection and maintenance programs across the DoD. Therefore, we will close this recommendation when we issue this final report.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Housing and Partnerships) stated that our observations made during this assessment are consistent with ongoing Army safety and occupational health management assessments. The Deputy Assistant Secretary stated that, for calendar year 2020 and annually thereafter, the Army would identify two installations and perform safety and occupational health performance assessments.

We agree with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Housing and Partnerships) statement that the Army has begun taking corrective actions to address recommendations in previous DoD OIG reports. Therefore, this recommendation is resolved and will remain open until the Army provides documentation showing that it performed two inspections that include a full verification of compliance with all app

The Naval District Washington Commandant agreed with the finding, stating that the Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling Commander expects to label the electrical panel in one building by April 30, 2020, and no labeling is needed for the other building since it will not occupied starting in calendar year 2021. In addition, the Commandant agreed that the repairs that Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling made to the lighting in the barracks was not sufficient and has developed a project to resolve the deficiency.

Comments from the Commandant partially addressed the specifics of the recommendations. We identified three deficiencies that needed to be addressed as opposed to the two deficiencies discussed in the Commandant’s response. Therefore, the recommendations are resolved, but will remain open. We will close the recommendation once we: (1) obtain the supporting documentation showing that corrective actions were taken for the remaining two electrical deficiencies and supporting documentation for the divesture of the facility, and (2) obtain supporting documentation showing corrective actions were taken to enhance lighting in the barracks.

The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Installations, Environment, and Energy) agreed with the report as written, stating that final inspection reports on the United States Air Force Academy and Wright Patterson Air Force Base should be completed in June and July of 2020 and that a corrective action plan will be developed based on the reports’ findings and tracked until completed.

Comments from the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary addressed the specifics of the recommendation. Therefore, this recommendation is resolved and will remain open until we receive the final inspection reports on the United States Air Force Academy and Wright Patterson Air Force Base and validate that the contractor conducted a physical examination of military housing for compliance with electrical system safety, fire protection, and environmental health and safety (such as drinking water quality, radon, mold, pest infestation, lead‑based paint, asbestos, and radiation) requirements.

 

This report is the result of Proj. No. D2019‑D000RL‑0117.000