Navy's Top Housing Official Resigns After Reports of Poor Conditions
Following widespread reports of subpar on-base housing conditions for U.S. Navy servicemembers, assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment Phyllis L. Baye has decided to retire from government and pursue other opportunities.
Reuters reported last year that thousands of servicemembers in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force are subjected to substandard - and sometimes dangerously unhealthy - housing conditions at bases around the U.S., sparking calls from Congress for action.
On February 23, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) directly interved to address the reports. They ordered every command to contact every sailor living in Navy family housing to find out if housing situations are satisfactory. The Navy says that the 100 percent contact order is not an inspection program, but rather an opportunity for commands to take action on behalf of their servicemembers.
"We are facing an urgent issue affecting not only the trust and confidence of our Sailors and their families, but also their health, safety, and well-being," said CNO Adm. John Richardson and MCPON Russell Smith in a statement. “Sailors and their families deserve safe, quality living quarters and commands must advocate for all sailors and their families."
Adm. Richardson singled out privatized housing for particular scrutiny. He asserted that the government's role in the "privatized partnership arrangement" with private-sector housing operators has become "too passive," and he called for commands to reengage. The Navy is also stepping up landlord oversight in order to improve quality assurance, get better follow-up on deficiencies, add feedback mechanisms after trouble calls are closed out and focus on improved customer service.
It is not the first time that the Navy has dealt with substandard conditions in privately-run military housing. In 2011, Lincoln Military Housing - which runs the housing operations at Hampton Roads, the Navy's largest base - said that it would implement an "8-point plan of immediate actions to alleviate resident's current concerns." The steps included a free mold inspection for any resident who requests the service.
The Navy says that it is actively seeking a replacement for the role. The assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment handles Navy and Marine Corps facilities maintenance; military construction; use and disposal of real estate; environmental protection, planning and restoration; environmental conservation; base realignment and closures; and safety and occupational health.
Mrs. Bayer was in the post for about one year, but she has had a long career in the Department of Defense - most recently as the Chief of Staff for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, where she worked on HR policy for 2.4 million members of the U.S. military. She is the recipient of the Army Achievement Medal and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Recognition Medal, among other awards.