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Highlights

The Department of Defense (DOD) intends to privatize about 87 percent of the military-owned housing in the United States by 2010. As of December 2005, it had awarded 52 projects to privatize over 112,000 family housing units and had plans to award 57 more projects to privatize over 76,000 more units over the next 4 years. The program, begun in 1996, has become DOD's primary means to improve family housing and to meet its housing needs when communities near installations do not have enough suitable, affordable housing. Because of expressed interest related to the oversight responsibilities of several committees, GAO assessed (1) whether opportunities exist to improve DOD's oversight of awarded housing privatization projects, and (2) to what extent projects are meeting occupancy expectations.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to require the Navy to upgrade the monitoring and oversight of its housing privatization program to ensure consistency, completeness, and preparation of appropriate portfolio summary performance reports.
Closed - Implemented
In comments on a draft of this report, DOD partially agreed with our recommendation. Further, DOD stated that additional guidance was being developed for internal reviews of audits and financial data from general partners to ensure accurate monitoring and oversight of distributions. In March 2008, Navy officials stated that the Navy had taken actions to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of its privatized housing portfolio monitoring and oversight. These actions included (1) a refinement of the roles and responsibilities of program stakeholders, (2) periodic issuance of additional guidance regarding monitoring and oversight, (3) the revision and expansion of data elements included in the standardized monthly reports, and (4) the development of a financial validation tool customized to monitor each project. The Navy also established a cross function team to review critical monitoring and oversight procedures and metrics and recommend best-practice processes. Further, the Navy provided guidance to personnel involved in reporting data for the DOD privatization program evaluation report and identified opportunities for coordinating and validating data for the report.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to improve the value of DOD's privatization program evaluation report by streamlining the report to focus on key project performance metrics, completing the report on time, and obtaining periodic independent verification of key report elements.
Closed - Implemented
In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD agreed with our recommendation and stated that steps were already underway to streamline the privatization program evaluation report and improve the report's accuracy. As a result, DOD streamlined its privatization program evaluation plan report, which it recognized as having an overabundance of data. DOD reduced the report from over 300 pages to 19 pages to focus on key project performance metrics. By focusing on key performance metrics, the revised report should be a more valuable tool for overseeing the privatization program.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to provide guidance to the services to help ensure consistent collection and reporting of housing satisfaction information from all servicemembers, which would allow for benchmarking and tracking of tenant satisfaction over time as well as for making service-to-service comparisons.
Closed - Implemented
DOD stated that it updated all of its Performance Evaluation Plan (PEP) guidance directing the services to ensure consistent reporting (using a numerical rating system) to rank housing satisfaction information and that the services have already moved to this numerical rating system. In addition, DOD initiated a housing choice study in February 2007 to survey service member housing preferences both on and off base and evaluate how accurate DOD is in determining its housing requirements. DOD stated that the housing choices study was completed in February 2010 and it shows why military families decide to live in the housing they choose and whether they are satisfied with their choice. The information gained from the study and the data collected in the Program Evaluation Plan are important tools in determining housing requirements
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to determine how increased housing allowances from the zero-out-of-pocket initiative will most likely impact future family housing requirements and provide guidance on how the impacts should be factored into the services' housing requirements assessments.
Closed - Implemented
DOD agreed with our recommendation and stated that it intends to closely observe project vacancy rates in view of the increased housing allowance rates. It is issuing a revised housing management manual that addresses the housing requirements issues identified in our report. This action meets the intent of our recommendation.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) to expedite issuance of the revised DOD housing management manual and ensure that the revision includes guidance to improve the reliability of housing requirements assessments and reduce the scope of the exceptions provided to the use of available community housing.
Closed - Implemented
In comments on a draft of this report, DOD agreed with our recommendation and commented that it intends to address the recommendation in a revision to the DOD Housing Management Manual, DOD 4165.63-M. In June 2010, DOD stated that the revised manual has been completed, is in final review, and is slated for publication in December 2010. DOD stated that the revised manual includes a chapter on requirements determination that includes guidance designed to improve the reliability of housing requirements assessments and reduce the number of exceptions provided to the use of available community housing from four to three.

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