Pryor Steps Up Oversight on Military Housing, Improves Fairness for Military Aviators
Measures are Part of Annual Defense Policy Legislation
Senator Mark Pryor said he is pleased his legislation to improve oversight and accountability of military base housing is closer to being signed into law. This provision, as well as Pryor's effort to help pilots meet their flight pay requirements while deployed, is part of the National Defense Authorization Bill for Fiscal Year 2009, which was passed by the full Senate Wednesday evening.
"First and foremost, this bill emphasizes resources and readiness for our troops before, during and after their deployment. This commitment includes a 3.9% pay increase for all uniformed personnel, enhanced technologies to combat WMDs and IEDs, and improvements in medical benefits for the Guard and Reserves," Pryor said. "I am also proud of the strong support this bill makes to university and private sector research and development programs to improve national security."
Improved Oversight on Military Housing Contracts
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pryor's initiative to improve oversight and accountability for military housing privatization projects was accepted when the committee first drafted the bill in May. The provision would require greater interaction among the government and private entities involved in base housing 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 on bases in Georgia, Florida, and Massachusetts.
"These housing projects are the poster children of government waste, fraud and abuse. Instead of the quality housing our military families deserve, there are rows of cement floors, unfinished housing and unpaid bills to subcontractors," Pryor said. "The new requirements should prevent similar mishaps from occurring in the future."
Fairness for Military Aviators
Pryor also inserted a provision during committee consideration of 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 that are fulfilling important duties, but not flying. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for them to meet flying requirements," Pryor said. "If the Air Force and Navy Secretaries review the situation, I believe they will make the appropriate changes to ensure these aviators are not financially punished for filling posts where our country needs them most."