Army calls base housing hazards 'unconscionable,' details steps to protect families

U.S. Army officials are apologizing and vowing to improve military base housing standards after a Reuters investigation.

Reuters reports that Secretary of the Army Mark Esper called conditions including toxic mold and other substances found in homes of U.S. service members and their families "unconscionable."

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“You’ve brought to light a big issue that demands our attention,” Esper said Friday, according to Reuters. “It is frankly unconscionable that our soldiers and their families would be living in these types of conditions when we ask so much of them day in and day out.”

“Our instinct is this is bigger even than what’s been reported, and we want to get to the bottom of it, get to the bottom of it fast,” added Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

Their comments follow a Reuters investigation that found mold infestations, dangerous pesticides and even collapsing structures in housing for families at Maryland's Fort Meade, near the National Security Agency's headquarters.

A separate survey from the Military Family Advisory Network released Wednesday found that more than half of military families reported dissatisfying experiences with private contractors in charge of housing on bases.

“Military families are living in dangerous situations with reports of the existence of black mold, lead paint, faulty wiring, poor water quality, pesticides, and a wide variety of vermin, insects, and other animals (e.g., bats, skunks, and squirrels) in their homes,” the survey found.

Milley added that the Army bore responsibility for maintaining standards that private contractors on bases were expected to follow.

“Just because someone said it’s privatized doesn’t wash our hands of the responsibility to take care of our soldiers and their families," Milley said, according to Reuters.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned their focus to the companies responsible for the housing on military bases at a hearing this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This is multiple layers of failure,” Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOvernight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds Trump taps new Air Force secretary Bolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran MORE (R-Ariz.), an Air Force veteran, said during the hearing. “I hope all of you can look these service members and their families in the eye and tell them that you’re sorry, but then do the right thing starting now. I hope you feel embarrassed.”