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Rats, sewage, crime in US military barracks are big threats says watchdog

412th TEC Soldiers stand ready after another successful mission at Schofield Barracks on 25 June 2021. (Maj. William Allred/U.S. Army)
September 21, 2023
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed shocking details about the deteriorating state of U.S. military barracks across the nation, including rodent infestations, raw sewage overflows and dangerous gas leaks.

The latest revelations not only highlight the physical hazards troops face daily but also underscore a systemic failure to promptly address these challenges.

During their visit to 10 stateside military bases, the GAO found that troops faced potential risks such as theft, property damage and even sexual assault due to chronic infrastructure issues like broken windows and locks.

“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,” the GAO report stated, offering a glimpse into the distressing living conditions.

According to Stars and Stripes, the Defense Department’s service branches have previously faced criticism over subpar living conditions. Notably, in 2022, a mold outbreak at Fort Liberty in North Carolina led to the evacuation and subsequent demolition of the barracks, displacing over 1,200 soldiers.

While there’s an overarching awareness of these challenges, the GAO suggests military officials might be underestimating the severity. The current rating system appears flawed, sometimes giving passing scores to clearly substandard facilities.

The report noted, “DOD doesn’t have reliable information about barracks conditions, or how these conditions affect troop morale.”

READ MORE: Missing girl found in Camp Pendleton barracks; Marine taken into custody The GAO’s observations shed light on a concerning discrepancy. Facilities that earned high “condition scores” of 80 or above required major improvements. In one glaring example, a base with a score of 90, suggesting excellent condition, had to be closed due to severe plumbing and electrical issues. The ramifications of these conditions extend beyond physical discomfort. All 12 troop discussion groups concurred that deteriorating barracks adversely affected their mental health.

Recalling personal experiences, one service member shared the emotional strain of returning “to a dark box after work.”

The GAO’s recommendations emphasize bureaucratic reforms and better tracking mechanisms. While the DOD agreed with most suggestions, the GAO stressed the need for full compliance.

Among the bases surveyed were Fort Meade, Fort Carson, Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington and others, painting a comprehensive picture of the challenges faced nationwide.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.