While budget constraints have forced DOD to limit funding for facilities sustainment and recapitalization in recent years, mission readiness has not been jeopardized at eight installations the Government Accountability Office (GAO) visited for a study of DOD’s efforts to maintain its facilities.
Public works personnel at the installations — Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Naval Station Norfolk, Va.; Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. — told GAO that facilities that are critical to their missions receive first priority for maintenance and repairs.
Personnel were able to provide only a handful of examples of facility conditions that hampered the ability of their installations to carry out their activities. Officials at Whiteman AFB closed an indoor shooting range, for example, after three instructors developed asthma symptoms believed to be caused by exposure to copper dust due to poor ventilation. As a consequence, personnel needed to travel 100 miles to an Army National Guard base for training or defer their training.
At the same time, facility conditions affect the quality of life, or overall satisfaction, of service members, according to focus groups GAO conducted and public works personnel. In some cases, personnel expressed satisfaction with facilities that were either new or in good condition. In many more cases, though, personnel pointed out facility issues that marred their quality of life. Focus group participants most commonly reported problems with heating and cooling systems, leaking roofs and windows, and mold and mildew.
Eglin AFB officials, for example, evacuated a dormitory with the capacity for 576 airmen and provided alternate living arrangements due to mold and other problems. Extra housing allowances amounted to an estimated $157,000 per month, according to the report.
Public works personnel told GAO they are made aware when facility conditions affect quality of life. Some of the installations have personnel who serve as liaisons to inform the public works department when facility occupants need facility repairs.
“Repair projects to address quality of life issues are included in the installations’ regular process for identifying which projects to execute based on service and installation priorities and available funding,” GAO stated.