12/03/2019 — 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would like to begin by again thanking the vast number of military families who have spoken out about the inadequate conditions of their privatized housing.  I especially want to recognize any military families who have traveled here today for this hearing.

Today we welcome Ms. Elizabeth Field from the GAO and the senior civilian and uniformed leadership of the military services.  Ms. Field, I especially want to thank you and your team for your dedicated work thus far.

The GAO’s findings thus far confirm the alarming trends we have heard from many military families.  For example, the GAO found that the often quoted 87 percent satisfaction rate is “misleading and unreliable,” and that the records for resident requests for work orders and service calls are questionable.  

This committee continues to receive complaints directly from military families.  While the services have made strides since last February, many unacceptable problems with housing remain.  I am still not convinced these private companies are doing everything in their power and invest as much as they can to improve the quality of homes for our military. 

I also have several questions that I ask be entered into the record that were requested directly by military families on the many issues with military treatment facilities and diagnosing medical problems caused by inadequate housing conditions.

While the conference process is still underway for the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA, I remain confident that we will reach an agreement on legislation that will represent the most significant reform of privatized housing since its inception in 1996.  We all still have a lot of work to do on addressing the systemic problems that have been discovered with privatized housing and I thank the chairman for convening this important and timely hearing.

Lastly, I want to take this opportunity – with the civilian and military leadership of each of the services present – to express my deep concern about the President’s recent interference in war crimes cases involving members of the U.S. military.  These comments follow my remarks on the floor of the Senate on November 21st

The President has the power to pardon, but he has a responsibility to use that power wisely, not recklessly.  Good order and discipline are critical and time-honored traits of the United States military – not only to enable military readiness and effectiveness, but also to ensure military men and women remain firmly tethered to our nation’s moral and ethical principles in the most demanding wartime environments.

Some have claimed that these cases were distractions and that President’s intervention has somehow improved the morale of our military.  On the contrary, President Trump’s disregard for our military justice system risks undermining the confidence of our service members in the rule of law and their chain of command – especially those who were courageous enough to bring allegations of war crimes to light and testify against their teammates.  When we do not hold our military personnel to appropriate standards of conduct, it also makes it more likely that they will face similar abuses on the battlefield and less likely that we will be able to hold our enemies accountable.

There is no one with more credibility on these issues than the late Senator John McCain who stated: “This is a moral debate. It is about who we are. I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos, and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.” 

That is the standard we should demand from our military men and women and I believe the President’s interference in these cases has done them a serious disservice.

Thank you.