Written by Leo Shane III for MilitaryTimes
House Democrats want to add $140 million to the president’s military construction budget for next year to help improve the quality of family housing across the force.
On Tuesday, lawmakers from the House Appropriations Committee offered their first draft of the fiscal 2020 military construction spending bill, which includes an increase of almost 2 percent above last year’s enacted levels.
The majority of that boost will address issues “such as mold, vermin and lead in military family housing.” The topic has been a major focus of both chambers in recent months, since news reports emerged about serious problems at privatized military housing across the country.
Military officials have promised sweeping reforms to address the problem in months to come, but have also struggled with how to bring housing standards up without rewarding negligent contractors.
But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and chair of appropriations committee’s construction panel, said lawmakers need to act now with the budget boost to ensure a high quality of life for those troops and families by addressing “shoddy housing conditions.”
Whether House Republicans or Senate lawmakers will go along with the extra money is unclear. The House panel is scheduled to mark up the budget draft on Wednesday.
Even if the plan clears the House in the next few weeks (leaders have said they hope to move quickly on the issue), the appropriations bill likely has a long path ahead to becoming law.
President Donald Trump has asked for a $750 billion budget with extra funding for his controversial southern border wall project. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill have voiced support for the plan, but Democrats have vowed to oppose it, and control the majority in the House.
Meanwhile, military leaders in recent weeks have circulated new surveys to troops and their families about current housing conditions, in an effort to better oversee private contractors tasked with upkeep of those properties.
About 2 million individuals are currently housed through the military’s privatized housing program.
About Leo Shane III – Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.