Senators want Air Force probe into allegations military housing provider faked records

Senators want Air Force probe into allegations military housing provider faked records
© Aaron Schwartz

Senate Armed Services Committee leaders on Wednesday demanded the Air Force investigate reports that a major U.S. military housing provider falsified maintenance records for years at a Texas base in order to gain millions of dollars in performance bonuses.

Responding to a joint CBS News and Reuters report that Balfour Beatty employees routinely doctored its records at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Committee Chairman Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDefense bill includes fix for military families' survivor benefits Gillibrand demands hearing following release of 'Afghanistan Papers' Overnight Defense: Trump leaves door open to possible troop increase in Middle East | Putin offers immediate extension of key nuclear treaty MORE (R-Okla.) and ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedGillibrand demands hearing following release of 'Afghanistan Papers' Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases MORE (D-R.I.) “urge the Air Force and appropriate federal law enforcement agencies to investigate this fully so we can truly understand what is going on and how pervasive this problem is,” according to a statement from the two lawmakers.

ADVERTISEMENT

“If the Air Force substantiates allegations that Balfour Beatty perpetrated widespread, illegal fraud, the Air Force must take every action appropriate to hold Balfour Beatty accountable and recoup every last dollar stolen from the taxpayers,” the statement adds.

Reuters earlier this year revealed allegations that Balfour Beatty for years also faked records at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to make it appear more responsive than it was to complaints.

Balfour Beatty has also been hit with accusations of falsifying maintenance reports at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

The latest report found that the company used a similar method at Lackland. Balfour’s Lackland manager from 2013 to 2016 told the news outlet that her bosses pressured her to forge records to make it seem like the company finished maintenance work on time, though the work was often late or never completed.

Internal company emails and maintenance reports confirm the allegations, as it showed that the company only completed 69 percent of repairs on time in 2015. The rate was changed to more than 95 percent after a Balfour Beatty manager demanded higher scores, which allowed the company to earn a bonus.

“This is not the first time allegations have been raised that Balfour Beatty has used fraudulent work order practices at Air Force bases,” Inhofe and Reed write. “This isn’t even the second time. It is the third time—and it is completely unacceptable and disturbing. How much more should we ask military families to endure?”

Following the damning report from the Oklahoma investigation, Balfour Beatty said it has started an investigation into the fraud allegations and also sought an independent audit of the Air Force’s bonus fees.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are also investigating possible fraud at Tinker as well as at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., where the company also is a landlord.

The Army is also investigating “allegations” against Balfour Beatty, Lt. Col. Crystal Boring told Reuters.

To obtain a response from Balfour Beatty, complete the investigation and fix housing for military families, the two lawmakers raise the possibility of legislation in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, “or, if necessary, as a standalone bill.”

The senators also pledge to “continue to work with the Department of Defense and military services to keep tabs on [the company’s] progress.”

About 99 percent of on-base housing is privatized following the 1996 Military Housing Privatization Initiative.

The initiative was created to address numerous problems with houses in disrepair on bases, allowing private contractors to pay reconstruction costs in exchange for 50-year leases from the military services.

Military families, however, have been unsatisfied with how the homes are being kept up by the five main companies, including Balfour Beatty, that oversee 200,000 homes on bases across the country.

Earlier this month 10 military families who all lived in military housing on-base at Fort Meade, Md., sued Corvias Property Management over what they claim was a lack of action to hazardous housing conditions and exposure to toxic mold at one of the nation’s largest Army bases.