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The Navy wants to privatize all barracks in Hampton Roads

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro inspects Navy housing in Norfolk. Nov. 9, 2023. Department of Defense
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro inspects Navy housing in Norfolk. Nov. 9, 2023. Department of Defense

Faced with a backlog of maintenance challenges, the Navy is looking at a private partnership to handle all of its housing for junior sailors in Hampton Roads, said Leslie Gould, head of Navy Installations Command.

“The Navy is sitting on a vast array of infrastructure that needs maintenance and it has a large backlog,” she said. “So freeing up resources to have unaccompanied housing managed with a private-partner relationship would provide a better quality of life for our sailors.”

The Navy has at least 5,000 junior sailors living in substandard housing, according to a 2023 report from the General Accounting Office.

The military has had a troubled relationship with privatized military housing. 

Family housing was privatized for more than two decades. A series of GAO reports showed problems with mold, insects and rodents, along with unresolved maintenance complaints. Problems led to tenant lawsuits against the companies throughout the military. Among the issues, the military found they had very little oversight over the private contractors.

“I think we've learned a lot from our private-partner ventures over the years,” Gould said. “The Navy has established quality assurance personnel that are government employees that would continue to support inspections, periodic reviews.”

The service already has authority in San Diego and Norfolk to run pilot projects for what the Navy calls private-partner ventures. 

This would be the largest privatization project of on-base housing in the military, costing $200-$400 million. The plan would include taking over the barracks at all bases in Hampton Roads. Some facilities would be refurbished and new buildings would be built, Gould  said.

“Then in some locations we hope to expand or add on more buildings based on whatever the requirement is in Newport News, the greater Newport News area,” Gould said.

The project was initially made public when it was mentioned in a proposed line item in the Virginia state budget. 

Still just a proposal, the Navy hopes to include the plan in the next defense budget, she said.

Steve joined WHRO in 2023 to cover military and veterans. Steve has extensive experience covering the military and working in public media, most recently at KPBS in San Diego, WYIN in Gary, Indiana and WBEZ in Chicago. In the early 2000s, he embedded with members of the Indiana National Guard in Kuwait and Iraq. Steve reports for NPR’s American Homefront Project, a national public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Steve is also on the board of Military Reporters & Editors.

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