The men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to keep America safe deserve to have clean, comfortable, sanitary barracks. That should be the bare minimum our military should be able to promise them.
Instead, according to a new report published Tuesday from the Government Accountability Office, inspections of 12 military installations found squalid hovel-like conditions — something that, according to Military.com, “confirm[s]] complaints made by many service members for many years.”
The report, which ran nearly 100 pages, detailed the grotesque conditions our troops face: mold, sewage, brown water, bedbugs and even squatters.
The enemy within: Horrific photos show overflowing sewage, filth and squalor in military barracks – with SQUATTERS breaking in and troops even forced to clean up after service member committed suicide https://t.co/4ctFJdJ2jy pic.twitter.com/DjI1u4DuGM
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) September 22, 2023
“Service members reported to GAO that the conditions of barracks affect their quality of life and readiness. However, GAO found weaknesses in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) efforts to maintain and improve their conditions,” a summary of the report on the GAO’s website read.
“For example, DOD does not reliably assess conditions, and some barracks are substandard. DOD assessments of conditions are unreliable. GAO observed barracks that pose potentially serious health and safety risks—such as broken windows and inoperable fire systems—and that do not meet minimum DOD standards for privacy and configuration. Thousands of service members live in barracks below standards, according to officials.”
Furthermore, the GAO said, the Pentagon “does not have complete funding information to make informed decisions.
“For example, DOD requested about $15 billion for overall facility sustainment for fiscal year 2024 but could not identify how much of this total would be spent toward barracks. In addition, DOD did not know how much it spent on housing allowances for service members who would normally be required to live in barracks, but did not because of insufficient space or poor living conditions. Complete funding information would help DOD target improvements and provide the department with more visibility into full costs.”
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On top of this, the GAO concluded, the Department of Defense “conducts insufficient oversight.”
“For example, DOD does not track information on the condition of barracks or facilitate collaboration on initiatives to improve barracks. Insufficient oversight hampers DOD’s ability to identify and address long-standing challenges in barracks conditions across the department.”
In addition to broken air-conditioning units, black mold and all of the rest of the unsavory findings, the report also included a number of shocking incidents including service members being forced to clean up the room of an individual who had killed themselves.
“Officials at one installation told us service members are responsible for cleaning biological waste that may remain in a barracks room after a suicide,” the report read.
Also, “at one installation, we noticed a bad odor throughout the barracks. Installation officials told us the smell was methane gas leaking out of aging plumbing with sewage pipes that routinely crack and require replacement.
“These officials acknowledged that exposure to methane gas is a health risk,” the report added.
And if these conditions weren’t bad enough, there are often squatters sharing the barracks with enlisted members.
During one of the visits, investigators were told that, while attempts to remove squatters from one room had been made, they’d continually failed. One of the squatters was a discharged member of the armed forces, the report stated.
In another facility, security was so poor that “ex-spouse broke in and physically assaulted a service member in the barracks.”
“I’ve seen some of our barracks, frankly, that I wouldn’t want my daughters to live in,” said Wormuth before the House Armed Services Committee.
Who would, quite frankly? The United States is supposed to be the greatest fighting force on earth and yet, we can’t keep our servicemembers in accommodations that are safe and sanitary. This GAO report should be a wake-up call for all of us: Those who serve America deserve better.