Dec 03 2019
Air Force Secretary Commits to Fixing Housing at Biloxi Air Force Base
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today asked Barbara Barrett, the Secretary of the Air Force, to address concerns he has with the military housing system at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.
“We have an unusual situation at Keesler in that Katrina hit and almost all of our 1,188 housing units had to be replaced in one fell swoop,” Wicker told the committee. “Of the 1,188 residences there, 1,084 actually have experienced moisture and mold.”
The mold and other damage followed issues with air conditioning systems and ductwork that were improperly installed by a private contractor. Wicker said that remediation efforts often fail to fix the problems and can disrupt the lives of service members and their families for weeks at a time. He said that repair timelines are often extended multiple times before work is complete.
“This is called being jerked around by the system,” Wicker told Barrett.
In his questions to Barrett, Wicker asked the secretary to answer how many companies were involved in the installation of the air conditioning units at Keesler, why repeated remediation efforts failed to fix the issues, how often repair timelines are extended, how often repairs are completed in under two weeks, and how often units go days without work being performed. Wicker also asked Barrett to answer whether lawmakers should change the statute for service members’ basic allowance for housing to account for higher homeowner insurance costs on the Coast and in other areas around the country.
Wicker met with Barrett when she visited Keesler Air Force Base last week. In her opening statement to the committee, she cited examples of families at Keesler that had been displaced from their privatized homes as many as four times in recent years.
“As these families prepared for Thanksgiving, they wondered whether they should decorate a Christmas tree in their temporary homes or rely upon the latest promise that they would return to their permanent homes in time for their holiday,” Barrett said.
The Air Force Secretary committed to working with the committee to fix the issues at Keesler and other bases.
“We owe it to our Air Force families to get this right. With your continued support, we will,” Barrett concluded.