The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee readiness panel called for increased privatization of military barracks during a hearing Tuesday on fiscal year 2025 budget requests from the military services.

Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., also asked the vice chiefs of staff whether the services’ budget requests would be enough to address a backlog of issues in barracks — and how the barracks figured into their unfunded priority list for the next fiscal year.

“My understanding is you have not submitted anything in your unfunded priority list for barracks,” Waltz said. “So, that leads me and the committee to assume — correct me if I’m wrong, please, on the record — that you have all the funding you need to fix this problem. Is that correct?”

Waltz’s questioning comes as military branches face decades-long scrutiny over the state of military housing — and its impact on recruitment and retention. A Government Accountability Office report in September 2023 found that all 10 installations visited had widespread issues with mold, in addition to heating and air condition systems.

On Feb. 7, the Marine Corps ordered a “wall-to-wall” inspection of living conditions in barracks. That same day, a Pentagon official testified before the readiness panel that no one had been fired for barracks issues. In response, Waltz suggested that was part of the problem, calling the situation “unacceptable.”

“What the [unfunded priority list] does is accelerates our bid in barracks 2030,” said Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. The service requested $642.5 million in its unfunded priority list for barrack renovations, he added.

Following Mahoney’s explanation, Waltz questioned whether training service members on issues related to barracks was the best use of their time.

“I encourage every one of you that I’ve sat down with to look at privatization,” Waltz said. “I want Marines focused on bullets on bad guys, not managing HVAC systems. That’s something that we as a force must take a much harder look at. ... I think you have a lot of bipartisan support.”

The other branches of the military had varying needs as well.

The Army put two barracks projects in its unfunded priority list, the first costing roughly $47.7 million and the second $57.6 million. The Army will spend $2.1 billion over the next few years to address barracks issues, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James Mingus said.

Mingus added that 80% of Army barracks meet the basic minimum standards for the service. The Army will focus on salvaging those buildings that can be brought up to minimum standards, while tearing down and rebuilding others, he added.

“I want to emphasize that the Army is fully committed to our barracks sustainment at 100%,” Mingus said in his opening remarks to the committee. “And we are also exploring the option of privatizing barracks, starting with Fort Irwin and other installations where it makes sense to do so.”

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James Kilby said the service requested $206 million for barracks in its unfunded priority list, and plans to spend $1.2 billion across 55 projects for fiscal year 2025.

More than 99% of the Air Force’s unaccompanied housing meet or exceed standards, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James Slife told Waltz. Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. Michael Guetlein said the service renovates one of its 28 dorms each year, and 81% of dorms are currently satisfactory. That, however, is below the service’s goal of getting to 85%.

“We are funded at 81, we’d like to get to 85,” Guetlein said.

“How about we get to 100?” Waltz responded.

Zamone “Z” Perez is a reporter at Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.

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