At least where the U.S. military is concerned, the lowest bidder usually gets the job. Who’s surprised? Inferior work or mismanaged operations from civilian contractors is not unusual on military bases. In fact, sometimes the same contractor who bumbled a job in the first place is rehired to fix their own mess for more money. It’s an endless cycle of spending more, in the long run, to try and save a buck at the time a contract is awarded.
Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC) is one such company. In December 2021, the company was fined $65.4 million for fraud. After winning a government contract for operating military privatized housing at two bases, BBC was found guilty of manipulating maintenance records.
Between 2013 and 2019, the company claimed to have done work it never did, which led to some of the houses being deemed unsafe for residency after they had been occupied all that time.
BBC plead guilty to all charges but they didn’t lose their contract. The company was simply ordered to work for three years under the supervision of a compliance monitor as a type of probation. But all was not forgotten.
After an eight-month study by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into BBC’s operations at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and Sheppard AFB, Texas, a report called the “Mistreatment of Military Families in Privatized Housing,” has been released.
Lo and behold, BBC has not changed one single thing about how they conduct business, and they’ll be facing a federal judge next week who’ll also be hearing statements from witnesses. A number of military members, their spouses, and a military advocate group will be telling their sides of the story, and it’s gonna get ugly.
At BBC’s initial sentencing, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said, “Instead of promptly repairing housing for U.S. servicemembers as required, BBC lied about the repairs to pocket millions of dollars in performance bonuses.”
Subcommittee investigators interviewed dozens of military family members and scanned through over 11,000 documents. They looked at medical records to see how many illnesses could be contributed to unhealthy living conditions and they grilled and drilled BBC employees to get them to fess up to anything they knew.
In the case of Fort Gordon housing, the report said that BBC “frequently ignored or delayed responding to urgent requests from military families to address conditions such as mold and roof leaks that threatened the families’ health and safety.”
The report singles out eight military families with the most gruesome tales to tell. In May 2020, one of them called BBC about a leaky roof. The maintenance staff said they couldn’t fix it, so they’d need to hire an outside contractor to come in.
The family continued to wait for the repair work to be done until the entire hallway ceiling finally came tumbling down on them in mid-August. When the end of September came around and the family was still living with no ceiling, the Army wife sent an email to BBC.
“Four months later and still no contractors have yet to be sent to my home…. We are now 30+ days into having the ceiling cave-in, …. And nothing has been done about it to date. I have yet to hear from the facilities manager in any capacity. I have called him multiple times and sent the video to him and the supervisor the night it happened. A leak is a life, health, and safety issue in and of itself, so I am pretty confident this hole falls into the same category.”
The rest of the tales are equally as horrendous. They deal with mold, no heat or air, leaks, bad plumbing, and the list goes on.
But just this one example is enough to know that our treasured military warriors and their families are getting a raw deal. They didn’t sign up to have to live this way and it certainly cannot be keeping their morale very high, if they have any left at all.
BBC will probably have to pay another gigantic fine, and they’ll probably have their contract yanked, but look how long it took to accomplish this. Then, consider every other private contractor who’s cheating taxpayers and the U.S. government at the expense of America’s fighting forces. It paints a grim picture.