Lankford Stands Up for Military Families and Pushes for Needed Updates for Housing on OK Military Installations
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today stood up for Oklahoma military families by ensuring we have quality housing on our military installations. Lankford participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing entitled, “Mistreatment of Military Families in Privatized Housing.” Lankford specifically asked about needed changes to housing on Tinker and Altus Air Force Bases and why there has yet to be lasting solutions to address the aging facilities.
The first panel of witnesses from today’s hearing included Capt. Samuel Choe, USA, Former Resident in Balfour Beatty Housing from Fort Gordon Army Base; Tech. Sgt. Jack Fe Torres, USAF, Current Resident in Balfour Beatty Housing at Sheppard Air Force Base; Rachel Christian, the Founder and Chief Legislative Officer at Armed Forces Housing Advocates; and Jana Wanner, a Military Spouse who has lived in on-base housing and started a Facebook group focused on military family on-base housing issues.
Lankford continues to support and push for updates and quality control for housing on military installations in Oklahoma and around the nation through numerous changes found in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legislation he’s supported and in remarks on the Senate floor to his colleagues.
On the need for housing updates at Altus Air Force Base
Lankford: One of the issues that we face at Altus Air Force Base is that it’s older housing that needs to be redone completely, but now we’re on the bottom of the list because Tyndall is going to end up with all new, and they’re just going to say, ‘That’s going to get all new,’ and Altus and the other three bases that are in that group are just going to continue to get old and old and older, which doesn’t meet what our folks need actually on that particular base…
On long-term fixes needed at Altus Air Force Base after corrections were not timely for Tinker Air Force Base
Lankford: Tinker Air Force Base, the largest of the sustainment facilities in the country, and then Altus Air Force Base—Altus was put into a group of multiple different entities, which Tyndall was one of those. So with Tyndall being in that mix, obviously Tyndall getting obliterated in a hurricane, all the focus seems to be going there. And there’ll be lots of new construction at Tyndall, but because of that—and they’re in a grouping of four—now they’re not going to get the attention from Balfour at Altus. So Altus is suffering the consequences of a hurricane on the other side, literally, of the country because of the grouping that they’re in…what I hear when I talk to individuals on base or when we talk to leadership on it, they are very pleased with the turnaround that Balfour has had the last couple of years because in 2018, Balfour at Tinker Air Force Base—all the mold, all the issues, nonresponsive. At Altus, we still continue to be able to get band aid fixes for things that should be replaced or actually just constant band aid fixes where they know that’s going to work for a few months and then I’m going to be calling you again.
So it’s two big issues that are here. One is trying to be able to balance out how there’s a hurricane in one area so every other base actually gets punished because of that because all their focus is going to be somewhere else or how do you deal with the issue of band aid fixes that actually get repaired so this isn’t a nuisance for those families.
Christian: If you don’t provide a band aid fix, and your provide the correct fix the first time, then you’re not incurring the cost of continually going out and trying to band aid fix these problems.
On the need for training and certification of inspectors and advocates in military housing inspections
Lankford: When the command leadership was taken out of the equation, they lost an advocate. The plan was there’d be other advocates that are there, but it’s our understanding those advocates are not able to articulate that. Why? Why aren’t they able to articulate the issues and get results?
Christian: So, this varies from branch of service, the type of advocate you have in the installation, and across the board, but I will say that none of them that we’ve come into contact with, which is a majority of military installations in the country, have training in housing. So they are not equipped to understand what an inspection should look like…
Christian: So what’s the solution to that? Are you suggesting some sort of state certification before they can do that, some sort of federal certification for that?
Christian: Absolutely—an industry standard. So they need to follow state laws, so someone who would be providing the same type of inspection at another facility off of the installation, they need to be trained in understanding the state law, the fire codes, anything that you would need, if you were to inspect a home off the installation.