Pryor Improves Oversight in Military Housing Contracts, Fairness for Military Aviators
Senator Mark Pryor today said that resources and readiness are emphasized in the Senate Armed Services Committee's National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2009. Pryor, a member of the Committee, said the bill authorizes funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the national security programs for the Department of Energy (DOE).
"This bill recognizes many of the new challenges our troops and their families face before, during and after they are deployed. In crafting this legislation, I'm pleased we took steps to address them, including a pay increase of 3.9% for all uniformed personnel, enhanced resources to combat WMDs and IEDs, and improvements in medical benefits for the Guard and Reserves," Pryor said.
During negotiations, Pryor added language to the bill that would improve oversight and accountability for military housing privatization projects. The provision would require greater interaction among the government and private entities involved in such projects; establish minimum bonding levels; specify procedures to be used in the case of schedule or performance problems; and ensure DOD maintains a database of entities that achieve unsatisfactory performance ratings on such projects.
The Senator's action follows a multi-million dollar housing fiasco at the Little Rock Air Force Base. American Eagle Communities LLC was awarded a contract to build 468 new homes and remodel 732 homes by 2011. Only 25 homes were completed and occupied, and an estimated 70 concrete slabs were poured before the company stopped construction on May 7, 2007 due to unpaid bills. Similar situations occurred in Georgia, Florida, and Massachusetts.
"Due to lax contracting rules, the Air Force awarded a questionable company a multi-million dollar contract to build housing at the Little Rock Air Force Base. Instead of the quality housing our military families deserve, there are rows of cement floors, unfinished housing and unpaid bills to subcontractors," Pryor said. "This provision, requiring greater oversight and accountability, should prevent this problem from occurring in the future."
Pryor also inserted a provision to the bill to address a problem military aviators are experiencing when they are sent to combat on non-flying assignments. The amendment directs the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy to review their flight pay programs, their assignment of officers qualified for aviation service to non-flying assignments, and the effect of these assignments on these officers' continued eligibility for flight pay. The findings will be reported to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. Pryor said pilots in the Air Force and Navy are being deployed for missions that require military aviators to perform support or administrative duties. Depending on how long a pilot is deployed, he/she could lose several months of flying credit which ultimately can affect eligibility for future aviation career incentive pay.
"We have a number of pilots deployed overseas right now that are fulfilling important duties, but not flying. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to meet flying requirements. I want to make sure our military aviators, including the airmen and women at the Little Rock Air Force Base, are not punished financially," Pryor said.