Overseas Basing Commission report: Military housing could pose problem
August 16, 2005
WASHINGTON — The Overseas Basing Commission still has doubts about stateside facilities needed when servicemembers and families are brought back to the United States in a massive realignment of forces, despite months of reassurances from the Department of Defense.
The final report, released Monday, mirrors draft versions released in May. It does not outright dismiss the military restructuring plans, but does recommend “a more inclusive discussion” on the issue before moving ahead.
Commission members note that questions still exist about whether stateside bases have facilities such as schools and medical facilities ready to maintain families’ quality of life.
Patricia Walker, the commission’s executive director, said that despite assurances that military families’ quality of life wouldn’t be harmed by the move, commission members still see areas where housing and community services are lacking.
“The thing we don’t want to see is taking people out of Germany, where they have good homes and schools, and bringing them home to dirt,” she said. She said the group is particularly concerned with plans to use old barracks and other makeshift facilities as temporary barracks at several bases until more permanent housing can be built or found. Walker said defense officials have said some troops may need to live in the temporary quarters for several years.
The report calls that plan unacceptable. It also states that even short-term hardships for families could have long-term consequences for the military, noting the rising divorce rate among troops.
In May, Pentagon officials disputed the commission’s opinion that the reorganization was moving too quickly. Under the plan, about 61,000 troops in Europe and the Pacific are expected to be moved to U.S. bases as the military reduces its presence overseas.
Because DOD analyses of force capabilities and mobility have yet to be completed, Walker said, the commission also has concerns that taking units out of Europe and the Pacific arena will leave the United States less able to respond to conflicts in the Middle East and other emerging trouble spots.
“There’s still the question of whether we have enough lift capability,” she said. “If you move it back, will there be enough in place if somewhere like Kosovo flares up again?”
The commission’s full report was to be available online on Tuesday at http://obc.gov/. The commission is scheduled to end its work on Sept. 30.