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Letter to the Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of the US Department of Defense - Manchin Joins Colleagues to Urge Defense Department to Address Failing Infrastructure at Military Schools

Dear Secretary Panetta:

Please accept our sincere congratulations on your confirmation as the 23rd Secretary of Defense. We look forward to working closely with you to meet America's commitment to our service members and their families. We would also like to bring your attention to an issue that is deeply concerning--the state of disrepair of many Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools.

Today over 86,000 children attend DoDEA schools across the United States, Europe, and the Pacific region. Unfortunately, many of these schools are in urgent need of repair. An October 2009 Department of Defense report submitted to Congress on the status of DoDEA schools found that 76 of the 189 schools assessed, or 40 percent, had facilities that were "failing" and should be considered for replacement. Another 73, or 39 percent, were assessed as "under-maintained."

The seriousness of this issue was recently highlighted in an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity published in Newsweek. These DoDEA statistics, the investigator notes, mean that "as many as three quarters of base schools the Pentagon operates are either beyond repair or would require extensive renovation to meet minimum standards for safety, quality, accessibility, and design." The report describes failing infrastructure such as persistent leaks, corrosion, and mold, as well as overcrowding and a reliance on temporary facilities.

When a service member puts on a uniform, his or her family faces the unique challenges and sacrifices that come with military service. In particular, military children often contend with long separations from a parent and numerous school transitions. Our military children should have educational facilities that enhance their learning, not facilities that cause distractions from learning or present real or potential hazards.

Our nation has an obligation to provide a quality learning environment for all military children. As such, we strongly urge you to make the maintenance, repair and safety of DoDEA schools a high priority as you prepare the Department of Defense budget for future years.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to working with you to address this and other critical issues so that we can better serve the needs of our nation's military families.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Richard Burr
United States Senator

Daniel K. Akaka
United States Senator

Mark Begich
United States Senator

Scott P. Brown
United States Senator

Lindsey Graham
United States Senator

Joe Manchin III
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Bill Nelson
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Olympia J. Snowe
United States Senator

Mark R. Warner
United States Senator


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