BARRACKS AND DORMITORIES
The services call unaccompanied personnel housing by different names, such as bachelor enlisted quarters, barracks and dormitories. All services are upgrading their facilities through renovation and new construction. The primary focus is to eliminate inadequate living conditions such as overcrowding and common-area ("gang") latrines.
For certain enlisted paygrades, the eligibility of unaccompanied personnel to receive the Basic Allowance for Housing is predicated, in law, on the availability of government quarters. In addition, the service secretaries can require uniformed members to live on base for various reasons, including military necessity, readiness, training missions or discipline, and to make use of underutilized housing.
Standards. Defense officials last revised the standards for unaccompanied enlisted housing in October 2010. The new Defense Department Housing Management manual defines unaccompanied housing adequacy in terms of three factors -- condition, configuration and privacy.
Condition. DoD has set a performance goal for the services to have 90 percent of their permanent-party unaccompanied housing at quality rating 1 or 2 by the end of fiscal 2017, except for the Navy, whose goal is extended to the end of fiscal 2022. For a building to have a quality rating of 1 or 2, the cost of needed repairs and improvement cannot exceed 20 percent of the cost to replace the building.
Configuration. DoD's minimum adequacy configuration has been improved to the "1+1" module with private rooms for two people and a shared bathroom. If the module has a living/dining room and a kitchen, then the DoD minimum configuration standard allows for a bedroom to be shared by two members, if each has at least 72 net square feet within the bedroom.
Privacy. The DoD standard is now a private bedroom for every service member in permanent unaccompanied housing. However, in light of current budget constraints, and in recognition of the unique cultural and operation requirements of the different services, the new housing management manual authorizes the services to approve service-specific configuration and/or privacy standards.
Assignment standards. Although law restricts BAH entitlement to the non-availability of government quarters, the services have the flexibility to require only members in lower paygrades to live on base because there is not enough unaccompanied housing for all. Other paygrades may live in unaccompanied housing, space permitting, once all unaccompanied personnel in the required paygrades are adequately assigned.
For example, Army policy no longer requires single E-6s stationed in the U.S. to live in barracks; that applies only to E-5s and below. However, in foreign countries, higher paygrades can be required to live on base.
The Air Force has placed a high priority on dormitory quality of life, centralizing the military construction program to replace the worst dorms first. Operations and maintenance dollars will be used to renovate dorms in order of priority of condition until new facilities can be built.
All single airmen in paygrades E-1 to E-3, and E-4s with less than three years of service, are provided unaccompanied housing. Air Force policy allows E-4s and above with at least three years of service to live off base, regardless of the on-base dormitory occupancy rate.
Coast Guard personnel stationed on ships of less than 1,000 gross tons are assigned government rooms ashore when in port. Crews of small Coast Guard cutters often occupy government-leased apartments.
The Marine Corps requires all single personnel in paygrades E-5 and below to live on base.
Navy policy requires all single sailors, E-1 to E-3 and E-4s with less than four years of service, to live in unaccompanied housing. Based on local conditions, as many E-4s with more than four years of service as possible should be living in unaccompanied housing. Enlisted sailors on sea duty who are authorized BAH to live in the local community do not have to give up their allowance when deployed.
Navy Homeport Ashore Program. The Navy has been rolling out its "Homeport Ashore" program to provide shore accommodations for sailors without dependents in paygrades E-1 to E-3, and E-4s with less than four years of service, who are stationed aboard ships. The Navy is on track to complete the program by 2016.
Construction standards. Consistent with federal law, the DoD housing management manual established a "market-style" model as the DoD standard for new construction projects. The model includes bedrooms with closets, at least two bathrooms (at least one for every two bedrooms), a living/dining room, a full kitchen, and a washer and dryer. This construction standard is intended to mirror modern university housing, or the type of housing commonly rented by young, single roommates in the private sector. Just as with minimum configuration and privacy standards, the DoD housing management manual also authorizes the services to approve a lesser new construction standard. To this end, the services have pursued different unaccompanied housing standards for single troops living in barracks and dorms.
The Navy has completed construction for these market-style units at Norfolk, Va.; Bremerton and Everett, Wash.; Mayport, Fla.; and New Orleans.
Starting this year, the Navy has adopted the new DoD standard for permanent-party barracks, a shared room, and a "2+0" standard for student dormitories.
The Navy has completed three Unaccompanied Housing Privatization pilot projects under a pilot project authorized by Congress. A central provision of this authority is to allow sailors who are not otherwise entitled to BAH to receive a higher rate of partial BAH if they live in privatized housing.
The projects, at Naval Base San Diego and in Hampton Roads, Va., are completed, and feature two-bedroom, two-bath, market-style apartments with amenities such as fitness facilities, media centers, Wi-Fi lounges and technology centers. Both projects include some previously Navy-owned unaccompanied housing, which has been renovated as needed.
As with privatized family housing, sailors sign a lease and pay rent to the property manager, equal to their special higher rate of partial BAH. The rate is based on the units' market value.
Before sailors can be referred to privatized housing, they must have a projected rotation date at least six months out, be willing to enroll in an allotment program for rental payments, and be eligible for a higher rate of partial BAH. Shipboard sailors also must get approval from their commanding officer to live off ship and be six months out from the next scheduled deployment of more than 90 days.
The Marine Corps was granted a waiver to the 1+1 module in favor of a 2+0 design -- one room of at least 180 square feet, two closets, a bathroom and a shared service area with a compact refrigerator and microwave. Two junior Marines (paygrades E-1 to E-3) share a 2+0 module to support team building and unit cohesion. Space permitting, individual E-4s and E-5s are assigned to an entire 2+0 module.
Using input from quality-of-life surveys, the Air Force developed a standard called "Dorms-4-Airmen," a four-person module with four private bedrooms and baths and a shared kitchen, washer and dryer, and a living/dining room.
The Army's current barracks construction standard is a 1+1 module with two bedrooms of at least 140 square feet, one bathroom and a kitchenette, but does not include a living/dining room. Washers and dryers are provided in a laundry room on each floor or in a central location in each building. Space permitting, the Army assigns E-5s an entire 1+1 module, with the second bedroom used as a living room.
Not all permanent-party unaccompanied housing meets the above standards. Because many installations may have capacity shortfalls, junior enlisted members may be assigned to housing with less privacy, space and amenities than the current new construction standards. Some of the services have decided to put barracks building projects on hold temporarily because of force reductions, to ensure construction dollars are not wasted.
Senior enlisted and bachelor officer quarters. Availability of bachelor officer quarters for single officers and married officers not accompanied by their families differs by service and location. Unless they are designated key and essential, single officers on U.S. installations are authorized to receive BAH and reside off base. Outside the U.S., officer quarters are often made available on base.
For this reason, no unaccompanied housing for senior officers or enlisted members has been built in the U.S. using taxpayer dollars in many years.
However, the Army has shown there is a demand for such housing by allowing their family housing privatization partners at four installations to build privatized apartment complexes with a combination of one-bedroom/one-bath and two-bedroom/two-bath apartments. These projects have been built at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Fort Irwin, Calif. Rents are generally market-based, and the units are available to unaccompanied E-6s and above.
Geographic bachelors. If unaccompanied housing is available, all services allow occupancy by geographic bachelors -- married members who by their own choice are not accompanied by their families. However, these spaces are decreasing as the services tighten policies to ensure all required members are housed first -- Priority 1 (key and essential) and Priority 2 (bona fide bachelors within each service's designated paygrade threshold.)
Operations and management. Barracks life is defined by rules and regulations.
Service members are expected to keep government-owned or privatized unaccompanied housing and furnishings in good condition, since they will be held accountable for willful damage.
Inspection policies for on-base housing vary among the services and typically are conducted at the discretion of the commander of the base or unit.
The Marine Corps has a standardized policy for barracks management that is incorporated into the Marine Corps Housing Order. It provides guidance for assignment, visitation, alcohol consumption, inspections, maintenance and repair, and new construction programming.
The Army has established a centrally managed First Sergeant Barracks Program that is being deployed worldwide as funding becomes available. The program standardizes the barracks management to include assignment and termination inspections, central in- and out-processing, maintenance and repair programs, and management control of room furnishings.
The Air Force strives to create an inclusive environment that cultivates development and training of airmen. Each unaccompanied housing management office is staffed with professionals who provide guidance and advice on dorm life and serve as mentors to members on succeeding in the Air Force.
Defense Department policy calls for relying on the private sector as the primary source of housing for accompanied personnel normally eligible to draw a housing allowance. Eligible service members with dependents may also apply to live in privatized housing or housing owned and controlled by the government.
For government-owned family housing, once service members are assigned to quarters, they are allowed to live in those quarters for the length of their tour of duty or until they no longer qualify for family housing. If a member's family moves away, for example, the member usually will be required to move out, as well.
If the member is sent on an involuntary unaccompanied overseas tour, the family should be assured continued occupancy until the sponsor returns or reports to the next permanent duty station not considered an unaccompanied short tour.
Military families are expected to keep government-owned and privatized quarters in good condition. Residents generally are responsible for minor repairs, conservation of utilities, indoor cleaning and yard maintenance. Installation or privatization partners share responsibility for maintenance of the government or privatized quarters by providing major repairs and maintenance on infrastructure, appliances and common grounds.
Residents usually are not responsible for exterior painting or major and emergency repairs.
Conditions. The Defense Department and services have been working to improve family housing through a combination of privatization and military construction. Almost all family housing in the U.S. has been transferred to private companies under the military's housing privatization initiative, and is being repaired or replaced.
The challenge DoD faces is to not allow the remaining government-owned family housing, which is mostly in foreign locations, to fall into disrepair. To encourage the services to budget the necessary funding to keep this inventory adequate, DoD has created a performance goal similar to the one for unaccompanied housing, under which 90 percent of the inventory must be in the top two quality ratings by the end of fiscal 2012.
Eligibility. To qualify for government-owned family housing, a member must be living with a bona fide dependent.
In government-owned family housing and with approval from installation commanders, members may receive an out-of-turn assignment into base housing at some locations in unusual circumstances, such as a medical or financial hardship.
Some installation commanders require senior noncommissioned officers and officers in "key and mission essential" jobs -- first sergeants or unit commanders, for example -- to live on base.
Eviction. Base commanders are authorized to evict tenants from government-owned housing if a service member, family member or guest fails to comply with government housing policies or is a continuing annoyance or danger to the neighborhood. In privatized housing, eviction rules generally are based on state or local landlord-tenant laws. Installation commanders do not evict tenants from privatized housing; only the private partner has that authority. However, commanders may ban individuals from the installation.
Surviving spouses and children. Dependents of military members who die in the line of duty may be permitted to remain in assigned adequate government-owned housing free for 365 days after the member's death, or continue to receive the housing allowance for that time.
Utilities. The services are implementing Defense Department policy for payment of utilities in privatized housing. If military tenants use less than the projected average for their type of home and family size, they may receive a refund. If they use more, they are billed for the overage.
Waiting lists. Many installations have waiting lists for family housing. Members may submit advance applications (DD Form 1746) or apply when they arrive at a new location. But an easy way to get advance information about housing is to visit the DoD Automated Housing Referral Network website at www.ahrn.com, which has information about privatized, government-owned and community-based housing.
Members with command-sponsored families -- those authorized to have families accompany them to an overseas duty station -- may apply for on-base housing. Adequate community housing is available at many overseas locations, and installations may provide loaner furnishings and appliances where appropriate.
Like their stateside colleagues, mission-essential members may be required to live in government quarters.
Having private companies build, renovate, own, manage, maintain and operate housing for service members and their families is helping the services eliminate inadequate housing, as well as build and renovate more quickly.
The Army, Navy and Marine Corps have privatized virtually all their family housing in the continental U.S.
The Air Force has privatized 82 percent of its housing in the continental U.S. The Air Force plans to privatize the remaining inventory by 2013.
Generally, once the agreement is signed between a military service and a developer, the initial work takes five to 10 years to complete. Work associated with all privatization projects should be completed by 2020.
Privatization projects provide preferential occupancy to military members assigned to the installation. But if housing units remain unoccupied for a certain period because of a lack of demand among military personnel, other tenants are allowed to rent the homes. The priority list for other tenants includes single troops, reserve-component members, military retirees, DoD civilians and contractors.
Service members have a choice whether to use their BAH to rent a privatized unit or other residence in the community, or forfeit their BAH and reside in government-owned housing, if available. BAH is designed to cover median shelter rent, normal utilities and insurance based on paygrade and geographic area.
All of the services are piloting or implementing utility-conservation initiatives in their privatized housing that reward service members who conserve energy and charge members for excess consumption.
Rent for privatized housing typically covers trash collection, water and sewer, common grounds, facility care, normal utility usage and renter's insurance.
Families may negotiate the term of the lease agreement to extend their stay after the service member is transferred to another base, or for other reasons, such as allowing families to stay so their children can finish school based on availability, demand and local policy.