Debbie Perez, the director of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Housing Management Office, says her office is working to alleviate long waiting times for housing assistance and a backlog in temporary furniture deliveries in the KMC.

Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes

Debbie Perez, the director of the Kaiserslautern Military Community Housing Management Office, says her office is working to alleviate long waiting times for housing assistance and a backlog in temporary furniture deliveries in the KMC. Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — As the permanent-change-of-station season winds down, officials responsible for the Air Force’s largest housing office say they’re working to fix problems that caused unusually long waiting times for their customers this summer.

Cuts to temporary staffing and positions that went unfilled for months, combined with an added 3,000 customers in the past year, contributed to a bottleneck that extended expensive stays in temporary lodging and sometimes caused lines extending out the housing office door.

In the worst cases, customers waited as long as five hours to see a housing representative, Air Force officials said at a town hall meeting on Vogelweh Thursday. The delivery of temporary furnishings — needed in a home while household goods are in transit — took up to three weeks.

“That is horrible. That is absolutely horrible,” said Lt. Col. Paul Silas, the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

Silas was speaking about the backlog in furniture delivery, which forced dozens of military members and their families to stay in temporary lodging longer — at an average cost of $300 a day, a bill footed by the government.

A total of 74 servicemembers received TLA extensions, from 10 to 15 days on average, beyond their maximum 30-day limit, said Debbie Perez, the Kaiserslautern Military Community Housing Office director.

The KMC housing office, located on Vogelweh, serves a population of about 57,000 people, including Air Force, Army and Defense Department civilian personnel and their families.

After moving to the KMC, personnel must visit the housing office to sign up for base quarters or to get a lease for off-base housing approved.

An Air Force noncommissioned officer at Thursday’s town hall said he waited three hours just to put his name on the list for senior NCO housing on base.

Similar complaints were aired about long waiting times for housing or delivery of loaner furniture on Ramstein’s Facebook page.

Despite those complaints, attendance at Thursday’s town hall was sparse. Perez said no one showed up for the town hall Wednesday on Ramstein.

Some people have grumbled on Facebook that the closure earlier this year of the housing satellite office on Ramstein contributed to the logjam.

But Perez said services at that office had already been reduced before the closure, and the housing office isn’t authorized positions for a satellite office.

The problems stemmed more from overall staffing shortages and an unexpected surge of customers.

Silas said he did not know why the office saw 3,000 additional customers, suggesting it could have been related to European infrastructure consolidation and the influx of military members into the KMC from communities that are closing.

Whatever the reason, the surplus came at the worst possible time. The housing and FMO offices had a combined 21 vacancies, including two furniture delivery drivers. That reduced the fleet of 10 available trucks to eight.

Though most of the unfilled positions go to local hires — usually military spouses — the housing office has to work through the Air Force’s centralized Air Force Personnel Center in the United States to hire U.S. employees, Perez said, a process that can drag on for months.

“These empty positions have taken a toll,” Silas said. He noted that officials had to elevate the hiring delays to a higher level. “We’ve got those positions advertised and we’re projected to fill.”

Compounding the staffing shortages this summer were cuts to temporary employees. In years past, the housing office has relied on “over-hires” — temporary employees brought in during the PCS season — and summer hires.

Air Force higher headquarters denied the housing office over-hires because of budgetary concerns, Silas said, and the summer hire program was also eliminated.

But the situation should improve next summer. he said. “We’ve been very vocal to our higher headquarters” about needing over-hires.

What to do about absent German workers, who make up about 85 percent of the housing work force, is a trickier issue. German employees are given generous leave policies and are even allowed sick leave if they’re feeling stress, Silas noted. “And that housing office has been a little bit stressed,” he said.

In addition to working with a new computer system that should enhance efficiency, the housing office set up a program that allows customers who are leaving the KMC to out-process without visiting the housing office by emailing their TLA claim to

Waiting times have since dropped from five hours to an average of two hours, Silas said, and temporary furniture delivery times are improving. The current waiting time for an appointment is about one week, Perez said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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