Carson Project Points Way to DoD Housing Solution
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2000 The DoD military housing privatization effort made a great step forward with the award of a contract to privatize all housing on Fort Carson, Colo. in November.
After a slow start the initiatives at Fort Carson and at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, are pointing to new ways to improve service members quality of life.
Congress gave DoD the privatization authority so the department could leverage private sector capital to help fix military housing. DoD estimates it would need 30 years under the old military construction system to deal with the 205,000 substandard housing units it has today. Under the privatization program, officials believe they can work off the backlog in 10 years.
"We don't have enough money in our military construction program to fix it the old way," said Joe Sikes DoD program coordinator. "So basically we get private sector expertise and private sector capital to help us fix military housing."
There are two types of privatization efforts -- on-base and off-base. Contracts for on-base programs are let for 50 years, Sikes said, and this is the length of the Fort Carson contract. DoD may give the land or housing to private companies or lease it to them. "The Carson project is the first where we took the housing from the whole base and put it into the privatization project. The scope of it is much larger than any privatization we've done before.
Off-base housing is where the private company buys its own land in the civilian community and builds the houses. These contracts can be for any length of time. The first two Navy projects were for 10 years. The private companies built the housing and promised to run the developments for 10 years.
But this does not mean the normal military construction housing will go away. "We believe you have to have a mixture for housing," Sikes said. "In some areas it will not make sense to privatize military family housing."
DoD also only has this authority domestically. "We will continue military construction for our overseas bases," Sikes said. "A mixture of privatization and normal military contruction should allow the department to meet our housing requirements for service members."
In short, DoD believes that by getting better private sector practices service members will get better housing. "The short term measure of success of the program will be when we start to cut into this 205,000 units of housing that needs to be fixed," Sikes said.
The long term success will be based on how the housing privatization projects are executed. "It's whether the privatized housing stays good over the long term," he said. "We believe we have adequate controls over the life of the project."
Sikes said officials are getting positive feedback about quality of housing already built under the program. "Of course it's still new," he said, "but what we're hearing is feedback on some of the amenities. For example, one Navy housing project has community center with pool attached. Normally, in on-base housing if you want to go to the pool you have to go to the base pool. It's part of the advantage you get through treating this like private sector housing."
Through fiscal 2001, DoD expects to privatize 31,500 units. In fiscal 1993, DoD privatized more than 1000 units. In fiscal 1999, 2,700 units were privatized. This fiscal year, DoD plans to privatize 21,600 units.
All services are currently preparing family housing master plans to define how they want to take care of their inventory of bad housing over the next six years, Sikes said. He expects those plans in the summer.
Fort Carson, Colo. -- 2,663 units
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas -- 420 units
Corpus Christi, Texas (Navy) -- 404 units
Everett, Wash. (Navy) -- 185 units
Fort Hood, Texas -- 6,631 units
Fort Lewis, Wash. -- 4,348 units
Fort Meade, Md. -- 3,170 units
Robins AFB -- 670 units
Elmendorf AFB, Alaska -- 828 units
Dyess AFB, Texas -- 402 units
Kirtland AFB, N.M. -- 1,890 units
Patrick AFB, Fla. -- 960 units
Dover AFB, Del. -- 450 units
McGuire AFB/ Fort Dix, N.J. -- 999 units
Tinker AFB, Okla. -- 730 units
Everett, Wash. Stage 2 -- 300 units
Kingsville, Texas (Navy) -- 150 units
San Diego, Calif. (Navy) -- 3,248 units
South Texas (Navy) -- 812 units
Naval Air Station New Orleans -- 613 units
Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany, Ga. -- 114 units
Camp Pendleton, Calif. -- 712 units
Stewart Army Subpost, N.Y. (Marine Corps) -- 200 units
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort/Parris Island, N.C. 684 units
Related Site of Interest: Fort Carson Awards Housing Privatization Contract