In a recent government report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), alarming living conditions faced by military personnel in barracks across the United States have been brought to light. The 118-page report, made public on Monday, underscores a persistent issue that has eluded effective solutions from military leadership.
The GAO’s investigation revealed distressing conditions endured by young troops residing in barracks on various military installations. These service members have had to contend with a litany of problems, ranging from infestations of pests like roaches and bed bugs to the presence of toxic waste and even squatters, raising concerns about the safety and morale of those stationed there.
The report, compiled after visits to 12 undisclosed military installations and discussions with service members, exposed a distressing array of issues. Many soldiers complained of tainted water in their barracks, raising concerns about its safety for consumption. Additionally, numerous reports indicated broken air conditioning and heating systems, compelling troops to resort to purchasing individual air conditioning units or using unsafe space heaters during extreme weather conditions. Furthermore, some barracks lacked secure windows and doors, allowing unauthorized individuals to occupy the premises, potentially jeopardizing the safety of military personnel.
One shocking revelation from the report was the claim that service members were tasked with cleaning biological waste left behind in barracks rooms after a suicide, highlighting the disturbing lack of proper support and resources in these facilities.
Photographic evidence included in the report depicted squalid restrooms with sewage overflow, damaged sewage pipes, water damage, pests, and mold or mildew growth. Some images even revealed the belongings of unauthorized squatters residing in the buildings.
Biden’s Department of Defense has U.S. military service members living in filth and squalor on our own bases while they demand more money for Ukraine!
I’m not voting to fund war while our own troops are treated worse than garbage!https://t.co/m2rhOzKMo9
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) September 24, 2023
The GAO report placed the blame on slow response systems and inconsistent evaluation methods that often fail to detect and address issues before they escalate. It also underscored the absence of universal standards for health and safety, allowing military installations and services to assign troops to substandard living conditions without consequence.
Barracks rooms primarily house the military’s youngest and lowest-ranking members, many of whom have recently completed basic and job training and are beginning their service.
Although the exact number of service members affected by these substandard conditions remains unclear due to a lack of comprehensive tracking, it is estimated that “at least thousands of service members are affected.”
The GAO concluded its report by issuing 31 recommendations to the Department of Defense (DOD), urging it to establish guidelines for barracks condition assessments, acquire complete funding information, and enhance oversight of barracks programs.
In response to the report, a GAO spokesperson emphasized the chronic neglect and underfunding that have contributed to these dire conditions, calling for clearer standards for barracks quality, comprehensive data collection on funding and facility conditions, and a review of policies regarding mandatory barracks residency.
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
Assistant Secretary of Defense Brendan Owens acknowledged the Department of Defense’s shortcomings in ensuring suitable living spaces for troops, pledging to take action to rectify the situation. Owens expressed a commitment to enhancing oversight and accountability and collaborating with individual branches to ensure safe and secure accommodations for service members.
The report’s findings underscore a pressing need for immediate action to improve the living conditions of military personnel, who have committed themselves to the defense of the nation but find themselves living in substandard facilities.