A lead mold remediation specialist at Fort Stewart shows where a barrack room's bathroom ceiling has mold.

As the military services flirt with the idea of privatizing more barracks to deal with deteriorating living conditions, a key House panel wants the Pentagon to study the issue more in depth.

In its draft National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, released this week, the House Armed Services Committee calls on the Pentagon to deliver a report to the committee by March 2025 that examines the "complexities" of contracting out barracks management to private companies.

"Members aren't completely bought into privatizing all housing," a senior Republican committee staffer told reporters at a briefing this week on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the committee. "There are problems with privatized housing, just like there are with service housing. So to turn it all over is something I don't think the members are ready to do."

Read Next: Army Eliminates Online Training Requirement for Noncommissioned Officers, Saying It's Too Burdensome[1]

News stories and government watchdog reports over the last couple of years have detailed deplorable living conditions for the military's most junior service members, who are typically required to live in barracks.

Mold, pest infestations and overflowing sewage, among other squalid conditions, have plagued barracks[2].

As the military services struggle to get the issues under control, privatization has been floated as a solution. Military.com reported in February that the Army[3] is considering the idea[4], and a report released last month[5] by a congressional panel that studied military quality-of-life issues revealed the Navy[6], Air Force[7] and Marine Corps[8] are also mulling privatized barracks.

The Army and Navy already have a small number of barracks run by private companies, but proponents of privatization envision it becoming widespread. Some lawmakers have offered a full-throated endorsement of privatization.

"I've encouraged every one of you that I've sat down with to look at privatization," Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee's readiness subpanel, said at a recent hearing with the vice chiefs for every service. "I want Marines focused on bullets on bad guys, not managing HVAC systems."

But military family housing, the majority of which was handed over to private contractors in the 1990s, has had similar problems[9] with mold, pests and other gross and dangerous living conditions in recent years.

Asked at a hearing last month about how the Pentagon would ensure that any privatized barracks are not plagued with the same problems as privatized military family housing, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sidestepped the question[10].

The study that the House committee's NDAA would direct the Pentagon to undertake would have to look at lessons learned from previous privatized barracks contracts, including details such as performance metrics, compliance standards, duration, termination clauses, and any incentive or penalty structures.

It would also have to lay out the military services' plans for potential privatized barracks projects; analyze the cost-effectiveness compared to military-owned barracks; and examine any legal, policy or budgetary barriers.

One hurdle with Congress approving any privatized barracks could be budgeting rules, committee staff said at the briefing. Signing a contract with a private housing company is considered what's known as mandatory spending, which complicates Congress' approval process.

"Members have talked about privatizing barracks for quite a while," a senior Democratic committee staffer said. "But doing the full implementation of it, that's one of the challenges."

The committee is scheduled to debate its NDAA next week.

Related: Army's Idea to Privatize Barracks Has Some Cautious Bipartisan Support on Capitol Hill[11]

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A person sifts dirt through a screen. A 25-member team from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is in the Normandy region of France searching for three missing airmen whose C-47A aircraft was presumably shot down by German anti-aircraft fire on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Air Force Master

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Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira

BEDFORD, Massachusetts — A Massachusetts Air National Guard member who pleaded guilty in March to federal crimes for leaking highly classified military documents appeared Tuesday before a military hearing officer who will recommend whether the guardsman should face a court-martial.

Jack Teixeira, of North Dighton, Massachusetts, is facing three charges in the military justice system: one alleging he failed to obey a lawful order and two counts of obstructing justice.

Capt. Stephanie Evans said at Tuesday's hearing that a court-martial was appropriate given that obeying orders “is at the absolute core of everything we do in the U.S. military” and that Texeira acted with “malicious intent to cover his tracks.” But one of Teixeira's attorneys, Lt. Col. Bradley Poronsky, argued that further action would amount to prosecuting him twice for the same offense.

Teixeira was arrested just over a year ago in the most consequential national security leak in years. He pleaded guilty[1] on March 4 to six counts of willful retention and transmission of national defense information under a deal with prosecutors that calls for him to serve at least 11 years in prison.

Referring to that agreement, Poronosky said the government has now taken its “big feast of evidence” from the criminal courthouse and walked it “down the street here to Hanscom Air Force Base to get their own pound of flesh.”

Dressed in military uniform, Teixeira did not speak at the hearing other than to indicate he understood the proceedings, and family members in attendance declined to comment. In court, he admitted to illegally collecting some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets and sharing them with other users on Discord, a social media platform popular with online gamers.

Teixeira, who was part of the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, worked as a cyber transport systems specialist, essentially an information technology specialist responsible for military communications networks.

On Tuesday, military prosecutors sought to include evidence they said showed Teixeira used Discord to ask others to delete his messages as the basis for one of the obstruction of justice charges. But his attorneys objected, saying they wanted the raw data that purportedly connected Teixeira to the messages.

“The government wants you to take a leap of logic and connect the dots when there are no dots,” Poronsky said.

The hearing officer, Lt. Col. Michael Raiming, initially agreed. He said he wouldn’t consider the documents in making his recommendation, but later said he would consider an amended version submitted by prosecutors. Raiming’s recommendations, to be issued at a later date, will be sent to Maj. Gen. Daniel DeVoe, who will decide whether the case should continue.

Until both sides made brief closing statements, the three-hour hearing shed little light on the case as neither Teixeira’s attorneys nor military prosecutors called any witnesses. Instead, they spent the bulk of the three-hour hearing discussing objections raised by Teixeira’s lawyers to some of the documents prosecutors submitted as evidence.

The military charges accuse Teixeira of disobeying orders to stop accessing sensitive documents. The obstruction of justice charges allege that he disposed of an iPad, computer hard drive and iPhone, and instructed others to delete his messages on Discord before his arrest[2].

“His actions to conceal and destroy messages became egregious,” Evans said.

Authorities in the criminal case said Teixeira first typed out classified documents he accessed and then began sharing photographs of files that bore SECRET and TOP SECRET markings. The leak exposed to the world unvarnished secret assessments of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including information about troop movements in Ukraine and the provision of supplies and equipment to Ukrainian troops. Teixeira also admitted posting information about a U.S. adversary’s plans to harm U.S. forces serving overseas.

The stunning security breach raised alarm over America’s ability to protect its most closely guarded secrets and forced the Biden administration to scramble to try to contain the diplomatic and military fallout. The leaks embarrassed the Pentagon, which tightened controls to safeguard classified information and disciplined members it found had intentionally failed to take required action about Teixeira’s suspicious behavior.

© Copyright 2024 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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