Dear President Biden:
Your late son, Beau, joined the military in 2003, served in Iraq in 2008-2009, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service.
While he was serving his country, did he ever live in military housing that included this:
Thousands of our military members who – and this is so important – volunteered to serve, are living in military housing with lead poisoning, mold, sewage, brown bath water, vermin and other issues. So are their spouses and children.
And it’s making many of them sick:
I know, from your many years in the Senate and then as Vice President, that you’re aware of the horrible conditions in much of our military housing.
And I know, due to my research, that to address this issue, in February 2020, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, along with the secretaries of each military service, signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights:
Here’s another part of the Tenant Bill of Rights:
“The Department commits to providing the full benefit of the following 15 rights by May 1, 2020.”
That looked definitive.
But it wasn’t.
I also know, from this February 2021 article:
That “Congress allocated nearly $200 million over the past two years to help boost DoD’s oversight over private housing providers.”
And, from that same article,
“DoD believes it will need to spend an additional $120 million per year to staff new programs to inspect and oversee those projects.”
Mr. President, those dollar figures seem downright paltry, when you consider that the cost of one of these – just one F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter – is $100 million:
Even more so when you consider that the woman or man who’s going to fly that F-35 Lightning II may be living in housing with this:
The problem, as is so often the case – is the middleman. That is, the privatized military family housing companies that have been managing and building military housing since 1996, when Congress created the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) under the National Defense Authorization Act.
According to this article,
The “Big 5” privatized military family housing companies are Balfour Beatty, Lincoln Military Housing, Hunt Military Communities, Lendlease, and Corvias Military Living.
I was unable to discover what the Department of Defense pays – correction, what we taxpayers pay – for privatized military housing.
But I found a clue in the February 2019 Congressional hearing, “Current Condition of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative”:
Here’s an exchange between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Christopher Williams, president of the above-mentioned Balfour Beatty:
Senator Elizabeth Warren: Mr. Williams?
Christopher Williams: Our net profits for our military housing businesses are around $33 million…a year.
Elsewhere I learned that there are 14 of these companies, called “corporate housing partners,” and some, if not all of them, hold 50-year contracts to manage military housing.
We’re talking billions of our tax dollars going to companies responsible for this:
Another name on that “Big 5” list is Lincoln Military Housing.
As I typed it, I thought “Lincoln Military Housing” sounded familiar.
I heard that name in the local news just last month:
The article says that “Several San Diego area families are suing a government contractor that provides housing to military members and their families.”
The government contractor is Lincoln Military Housing.
One of those families is the Huffmans, who moved to San Diego in 2018. Matt Huffman is a staff sergeant in the Marines.
April Huffman said within a week of moving into their military housing, two of her sons got sick.
They started having “a really bad cold or something coming on,” she said.
Those cold-like symptoms didn’t go away, and for one of her boys things got much worse. Logan had trouble breathing and ended up in the hospital:
It was a sight his dad could barely handle:
“I was sitting there watching him in the hospital bed struggling and having a hard time reacting to the medication that they were doing,” Matt Huffman said.
The family called in a company to run air tests and swabs, and the results were several different toxic molds.
They then contacted Lincoln Military Housing and, according to the lawsuit,
“…repeatedly notified the defendants of these multiple defects in a timely manner; however, Defendants took no action to properly or time repair them and/or improperly attempted repairs resulting in further contamination, adding to the uninhabitability of the Subject property and making it untenantable and substandard.”
The Huffmans moved into a hotel for three months, and now the family of five is living in an RV:
Again, according to the lawsuit,
“…it was discovered there were multiple defects and problems with the home, such as vents contaminated with microbial spores, visible microbial growth in kitchen and bathrooms, an odor throughout the interior living spaces, and elevated moisture levels.”
The family’s attorney said,
“This family was exposed to microbial spores and water intrusion in their home, which caused them health issues including respiratory issues, asthma, skin rashes, headaches, nosebleeds, and things like that.”
Lincoln has denied all the lawsuit charges.
The Huffman case is still in the early stages. Their lawsuit asks for damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees, among other things.
Mr. President, I encourage you to watch the May 14 YouTube video related to the Huffman story, Lawsuit Claims Military Housing Was Unsafe.
You’ll see Staff Sergeant Matt Huffman blinking back tears as he talks about what the family had to throw away due to contamination from their military housing including letters from his now-deceased father, written to Matt while in boot camp 10 years ago:
And this is just one military family – among so many.
So many families, despite the 2020 Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights that said, “The Department commits to providing the full benefit of the following 15 rights by May 1, 2020.”
Despite the money Congress allocated, and then added to.
Despite all that, military families are still living with this dangerous issue – as attested to on the Military Housing Advocates’ Network’s Facebook page:
And as attested to in this June 9 article:
“FORT HOOD, Texas – Military families are still struggling with private contractors and on-post housing after the Department of Defense delayed the final protections of the new housing Bill of Rights to September 30.
“The Defense Department says because these companies are signed into existing long-term contracts with the military, they cannot force these companies to accept the changes. They must voluntarily agree to them.”
When we deploy our military members overseas, we often put then in harm’s way.
They shouldn’t come home and still be in harm’s way.
Please, Mr. President: Don’t let the Department of Defense kick this down the road to September 30.
Don’t delay addressing this issue.
Do it now.
Do it for Beau.