WASHINGTON — Congress will reopen its investigation into substandard military housing next week with a hearing demanding solutions from top military officials.

The civilian and uniformed leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7 on “the chain of command’s accountability to provide safe military housing” for servicemembers.

The move comes a few weeks after the committee heard from military families and private contractors over a host of health and safety issues at privatized military housing across the country, including mold, lead paint, termites and mice.

Committee chairman Sen.. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., called those reports “horrific.”

“One of the recurring, heartbreaking sentiments was that families felt they had no advocate within the military to ensure they had high-quality, affordable housing,” he said in a statement. “That is unacceptable and we need to ensure that the chain of command appropriately supports these families entrusted to their care.”

A study from the Military Family Advisory Network released earlier this month found that more than half of military families surveyed about their privatized housing reported having a negative experience.

In response, military officials in recent weeks have offered several potential remedies. Army and Air Force officials have promised force-wide housing inspections in coming months. Service officials are also looking into a possible “tenant bill of rights” that would allow service members to suspend their rent payments if their problems with private contractors are not resolved.

Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he hopes to force additional changes with the next hearing.

“Our troops and their families sacrifice so much,” he said in a statement. “They deserve the very best and it is this committee’s duty to find ways to better serve them. The first military housing hearing was an eye opener and this one will help us continue to make progress and press for answers and solutions.”

Reporter Karen Jowers contributed to this story.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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