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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) military family housing program to determine whether the program: (1) is cost-effective; and (2) provides equal housing benefits to all military families.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. The Secretary of Defense should establish a long-term goal to reduce the use of government family housing in the United States to the minimum possible level. The goal should limit government housing to families assigned to locations where no adequate private housing alternative exists and to the small number of families that reside on base for military necessity.
Closed - Implemented
DOD is committed to constructing or acquiring new government housing only at locations where adequate private housing is unavailable. Congress has required the services to develop housing master plans that will show how each service plans to integrate various housing tools to meet service requirements. Plans are due by July 1, 2000. In addition, the Center for Naval Analysis is studying improvements in the DOD housing requirements determination process. This study is due to be completed in September 2000.
Department of Defense 2. The Secretary of Defense should revise the housing requirements process by issuing guidance to ensure that the process: (1) matches military housing requirements with available private housing before matching the requirements with government housing; and (2) considers suitable, affordable rental vacancies in excess of normal market levels to be available to the military. The revised guidance should take into account the results of the DOD Inspector General's review of the housing requirements process.
Closed - Implemented
The Center for Naval Analysis is studying improvements in the DOD housing requirements determination process. This study is due to be completed in September 2000.
Department of Defense 3. The Secretary of Defense should develop information to better quantify the relationship between quality of life and family housing. The information should reflect service members' desires and preferences for private versus government housing under various circumstances, such as if housing allowances were increased, if rent or utilities were charged for government housing, and if no changes were made to the current program.
Closed - Implemented
DOD contracted with the RAND Corporation to conduct a study of service member desires and preferences for family housing. The study results were used in the development of a new housing allowance program implemented in 1998.
Department of Defense 4. The Secretary of Defense should direct installation commanders to redesignate, to the maximum practical level, government housing reserved for senior personnel for use by junior personnel in areas where private housing is available and affordable for senior personnel but not for junior personnel. To reduce the potential impact on the families of senior personnel, this action could be accomplished over a phased period of time.
Closed - Implemented
DOD reemphasized the need for installation commanders to provide for the housing needs of junior enlisted members and their families. However, DOD does not plan to direct installation commanders to redesignate senior housing for use by junior members.
Department of Defense 5. The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the DOD working group on housing allowances considers housing allowance changes that could result in greater flexibility in addressing housing problems and cost savings through greater reliance on private housing. For example, the group should consider whether: (1) housing allowances should be based on average housing costs in an area, rather than actual member housing expenditures; and (2) housing allowances could be used in new, innovative ways to solve specific housing problems more economically than constructing or renovating government housing.
Closed - Implemented
The Congress approved DOD's request for major changes in the housing allowance program starting in 1998. Allowances in the future will be based on average housing costs in each geographic area. This should make more private housing affordable for military members and their families.
Department of Defense 6. The Secretary of Defense should develop plans to reduce the difference in the average amounts paid for housing by families of service members in the same pay grade by requiring families that live in government housing pay a portion of their housing costs. These plans should include milestones for implementation.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD does not plan to require members living in government housing to pay a portion of their housing costs. DOD believes that to begin charging members for any costs when living in government housing would be viewed as a cut in military benefits.

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