A recent government study highlighted an issue that military authorities have failed to address: the appalling living circumstances endured by certain service personnel in barracks around the nation.
Squatters, toxic waste, and pests like roaches and bedbugs are just some of the problems that troops residing in barracks on military installations have had to deal with, according to an investigative report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
According to the GAO’s 118-page study released on Monday, military commanders at the Pentagon were not able to offer sufficient oversight of the matter and have instead largely left it up to the individual services to address.
GAO investigators went to 12 undisclosed military facilities and held focus groups with service personnel to get their input. Many military men reported that the water in their barracks was unclean and unfit to drink.
The watchdog has sometimes detected a rotten egg odor, which it attributes to methane gas leaking from outdated, crumbling sewage lines.
The report shows many service personnel had to resort to dangerous space heaters or expensive personal air conditioners to keep warm during the winter months since the central heating and cooling systems were damaged.
Investigators also found that in certain situations, squatters moved into rooms since the structures lacked lockable windows and doors.
Officials at one base informed GAO auditors that, in the worst-case scenario, military members are expected to clean up any biological material that may be present in a room following a suicide.
The GAO made 31 suggestions to the Defense Department to guide barracks status inspections, get comprehensive financial information, and strengthen barracks program monitoring.
DOD supported 23 suggestions and partly supported 8, citing current measures to address them. The report says the GAO believes the DOD should execute all these recommendations.
While the Army has worked hard to improve living conditions, eleven troops questioned by Military.com reported being unwell due to mold exposure in the aging barracks.
All of the ill service members are from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, or Fort Stewart, Georgia, where previous investigations have extensively documented mold growth. All of them complained of nosebleeds and other respiratory problems. At least twice, health issues necessitated the removal of troops from their quarters.
None of the 11 service members interviewed were allowed to speak with the media, therefore, they were all provided anonymity.