A U.S. Army soldier bows her head in prayer at a welcome home ceremony for troops returning from Iraq on Nov. 10, 2011, at Fort Carson. More than 100 soldiers from the 549th Quartermaster Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade returned after a seven-month deployment. They played a key role in removing excess equipment from Iraq as other troops withdrew from the region. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined other lawmakers in pushing for a new oversight effort to protect service members from unsanitary and unsafe living conditions at military base housing facilities operated by Balfour Beatty Communities, one of the largest providers of privatized military housing to the U.S. Armed Forces.
Last year, Balfour Beatty Communities, which operates privately-owned military housing across the country, pleaded guilty to defrauding several branches of the armed forces, in connection with a scheme to defraud the military, according to a December statement from the Department of Justice.
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Employees of Balfour Beatty Communities altered or manipulated data and destroyed and falsified resident complaint cards to falsely inflate the company’s performance and to prompt the service branches to pay performance incentive fees that Balfour Beatty Communities had not earned, according to the statement.
Balfour Beatty Communities agreed to pay $65 million in fines and restitution to the United States government, following its guilty plea.
Balfour Beatty Communities manages housing communities at over 50 military installations across the country, including at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs, according to a statement from Bennet last week.
“In defrauding our country’s military services, BBC took advantage of their unique position as a military housing provider and put greed and personal profit above our servicemembers,” Paul Abbate, the FBI deputy director, said in the DOJ statement.
Hickenlooper and Bennet joined over a dozen other lawmakers, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Raphael G. Warnock of Georgia in writing a letter to the Department of Defense asking for more information about how the department will conduct proper oversight of private military housing operated by Balfour Beatty Communities.
In the letter sent last week, the senators asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin how the Department of Defense plans to instill trust in military families that Balfour Beatty Communities and other providers will meet their housing needs, and what actions the Department will take to ensure privatized housing companies provide a sufficient quantity of quality houses for military families at bases where there is a need for more housing. The settlement with Balfour Beatty Communities includes three years of probation, so the senators ask Austin what this means for the current contracts Balfour Beatty Communities has at 55 military installations.
“Our nation’s servicemembers and military families deserve to live in quality housing and trust that the U.S. government and private contractors will be responsive, respectful, and committed to meeting their needs,” the senators wrote.
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