(The Center Square) – The Pentagon doesn’t know how much it spends on barracks for U.S. troops.
That’s according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that laid bare the conditions of the barracks that house some military service members. The report detailed sewage backups and inoperable fire systems as among the safety hazards that U.S. service members living in barracks face. It found that such conditions undermine quality of life and military readiness.
“The Department of Defense has not tracked complete or reliable information on how much Operation and Maintenance (O&M) or Military Construction (MILCON) it has used to improve barracks conditions or how much would be needed to meet minimum condition standards,” according to the report. “Additionally, DOD has not tracked complete or reliable information on how much Military Personnel funding it has used to house service members typically required to live in barracks.”
Department of Defense funding to maintain and improve barracks conditions is included in agency’s annual budget request under the Facility Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization (FSRM) category. FSRM funding for all facilities is lumped within a single requested amount “making it challenging or impossible to determine the amount of funding specifically designated for barracks,” according to the report.
The Department of Defense requested about $15 billion for FSRM across all active-duty facilities, including barracks, for fiscal year 2024.
“When we asked the military services to provide information on the amount of FSRM funding obligated for barracks, none was able to provide us complete data,” according to the report.
Problems with barracks, where military members live during initial training, have existed for decades. The Department of Defense has not fully funded its facilities program for years leading to a backlog of at least $137 billion in deferred maintenance costs as of fiscal year 2020, according to the report.
U.S. military services generally require enlisted service members in certain ranks without dependents to live in barracks.
“Without a means to identify the requirements and expenditures needed to address barracks conditions … [Office of the Secretary of Defense] and the services may be hindered in their ability to ensure that barracks are sufficiently funded, and Congress will not have visibility into the full scope of barracks requirements when making annual funding decisions,” according to the report.
The report found the problems were widespread and, in some cases, dangerous.
“We found that living conditions in some military barracks may pose potentially serious risks to the physical and mental health of service members, as well as their safety,” according to the report. “During site visits, we observed a variety of living conditions that service members and unit leaders told us were negatively affecting them, such as the presence of mold, broken fire alarm systems, and extreme temperatures, among others.”