With dozens of families reporting mold and other issues in private housing at MacDill Air Force Base, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is pushing for answers.
Rubio wrote Assistant Air Force Secretary for Installations, Environment and Energy John Henderson on the matter this week.
“This letter concerns the current safety of military housing associated with MacDill Air Force Base’s Public Private Venture (PPV) privatized family housing. As reported in testimony from servicemembers’ families earlier this month to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, unhealthy living conditions, such as the prevalent and harmful existence of black mold in family housing is of great concern,” Rubio wrote Henderson on Wednesday.
“As you know, the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) was enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1996. Since the MHPI enactment, I am concerned that the Department has lost focus in conducting proper oversight of this critical part of our military readiness. We must ensure our military personnel are able to be fully focused on the task of defending our nation, not distracted from their efforts by unhealthy living conditions of their loved ones,” Rubio added.
“The Department should do more to educate military families on Public Private Venture (PPV) privatized housing policies and procedures, including on housing matters such as maintenance policies, renter’s insurance, town meetings, and grievance procedures to name a few,” Rubio continued. “Military families should have a stronger hand in housing disputes by empowering installation commanders and military housing advocates to swiftly arbitrate and resolve military housing issues. We should strengthen the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act to hold PPV housing companies accountable for lack of performance and create penalties, including withholding of BAH/rent in escrow or lease termination due to breech of PPV contract. Finally, we need to develop detailed contractor performance criteria.
“Since the establishment of the MHPI, market forces have been used as a primary tool to assess contractor performance. Due to a skewed market, occupancy rates are not the most accurate assessment tool of contractor performance. Realizing this, we need to develop oversight measures of PPV contractors to best manage and encourage outstanding performance,” Rubio wrote in conclusion. “Undoubtedly, our most valuable resource in the defense of our nation are the brave men and women answering the call to serve and the invaluable support provided by their loved ones. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to continuing our work on military readiness and the quality of life for our service members and their families.”
Earlier in the month, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., met with U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson on the matter and followed up with her in a letter.
“Are there plans in place to remedy the reports of mold and pests at MacDill Air Force Base? What resources are needed to expedite this project?” Scott wrote.