As Concerns over Privatized Housing Linger, Air Force Begins Independent Inspections

Starting in mid-June, third-party inspectors will begin touring privatized military housing at Department of the Air Force installations—and they’ll keep going for the next 28 months, checking every one of the department’s approximately 55,000 units.

The process, which is scheduled to end by Sept. 30, 2024, will bring the Air Force in line with a Defense Department memo released in January directing all the military services to have independent inspections of all their privatized housing. 

The other military branches have already begun their inspections—the Navy started in October 2021, the Marine Corps followed in January, and the Army launched a pilot program in February.

The Air Force will start with a pilot program as well, at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, according to a release from the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

Independent inspections are required by legislation in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which mandated that the Pentagon establish “a uniform code of basic housing standards for safety, comfort, and habitability” and start conducting inspections based on that code by Feb. 1, 2021.

It’s one of more than 30 requirements related to privatized military housing included in the 2020 and 2021 NDAAs, as lawmakers reacted to news investigations that uncovered widespread fraud and unsafe living conditions ignored by housing companies. Airmen and other service members alleged that companies failed to conduct needed maintenance but created false records to keep collecting performance bonuses from the services.

Those revelations led to an FBI investigation, which culminated in one company, Balfour Beatty Communities, pleading guilty to fraud and agreeing to pay $65 million in fines and restitution.

Still, a recent Congressional investigation found that Balfour Beatty employees have continued to submit incorrect or incomplete work order information, and several service members told lawmakers their personal experiences of dealing with employees that dismissed problems, changed work orders, and made shoddy repairs.

With third-party inspections, the Air Force is hoping to get a “consistent and effective assessment of the entire inventory,” of privatized housing, said Mark Wall, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Housing Program Manager, in a statement.

Under the 2020 NDAA, the inspectors cannot have a relationship with the federal government or the companies operating the privatized housing. The law also requires the Pentagon to establish minimum credentials for inspectors.

Tenants will be notified prior to inspections taking place, as required in their lease agreements, and Air Force officials are urging residents to work with the inspectors to ensure the process is useful.

“The residents have a place in this process and it is important that they are heard,” Wall said. “We highly encourage Airmen, Guardians, and their families to support the inspection and assessment of their homes to ensure their needs for quality housing are met well into the future.”