WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — The Pentagon is failing to provide sufficient oversight over complaints of bedbugs, mold and sewage at U.S. military base barracks, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The report accuses to U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) of not providing reliable assessments of barrack conditions, especially in instances where the conditions are substandard. In its report, the GAO found conditions that could pose “serious health and safety risks.”
Servicemembers in one discussion group with the GAO said tap water in their barracks is often brown and fear it is not safe to drink. Servicemembers in six of the twelve discussion groups told the GAO of pest issues including bedbugs, rodents, cockroaches and wasps.
In one of the more shocking claims by servicemembers, the GAO’s report found that, at one installation, servicemembers are responsible for cleaning biological waste that “may remain in a barracks room after a suicide.”
At another installation that was visited by the GAO in October 2022, legionella bacteria was found in the building plumbing systems, something that officials described as “challenging to remediate.”
In every one of the 12 installations visited by the GAO, servicemembers said that their living conditions affected their mental health. Among the complaints were anxiety and panic attacks because of the conditions and one servicemember likened the conditions to that of a “dark box.” In three of 12 discussion groups, servicemembers said the conditions were contributing to substance abuse, with one group noting that a barracks resident was recently hospitalized due to a drug overdose. Servicemembers or first sergeants at three installations mentioned thoughts of suicide.
The 100-page report also commonly observed filthy conditions. “We observed or heard about challenges related to cleanliness in barracks at multiple installations, including issues with sewage, water quality, and pests, among others,” according to the report. In one installation, GAO noticed a foul odor throughout the barracks. Installation officials said the smell was due to methane gas “leaking out of aging plumbing with sewage.” The officials acknowledged that exposure to methane gas is a health risk.
Amid a national recruitment shortage, the GAO’s report found that no military service has complied with the DOD’s requirements to “evaluate the effects of barracks conditions on service members’ reenlistment.”