Military Housing

Status of the Services' Implementation of the Current Barracks Design Standard Gao ID: NSIAD-99-52 March 24, 1999

The Defense Department (DOD) expects most single junior enlisted servicemembers to live on base in furnished living quarters?commonly called barracks. In November 1995, DOD adopted a new barracks construction standard, known as the 1+1 design standard, that called for more space and increased privacy in the new barracks for servicemembers permanently assigned to an installation. The new standard, which does not apply to soldiers in basic training, provides each junior enlisted member with a private sleeping room and a kitchenette and bath shared with one other member. The military originally estimated that it would cost about $10 billion to implement the new standard over 20 years. This report discusses (1) the status of the services' implementation of the 1+1 barracks design standard; (2) DOD's rationale for adopting the standard; (3) the costs of alternatives to the 1+1 standard; and (4) service views of the impact of the standard from a team-building, individual isolation, or similar perspective.

GAO noted that: (1) except for the Marine Corps, the services embraced the 1 plus 1 barracks design standard and in fiscal year (FY) 1996 began building new and renovating older barracks to conform to the new standard; (2) in fiscal years 1996-99, about $1.5 billion in funding was approved for 124 military construction projects designed to provide over 29,000 barracks spaces meeting the 1 plus 1 design standard; (3) also, to provide increased privacy in existing barracks over a phased time period, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force plan to assign one member to existing rooms designed for two members and two members to existing rooms designed for three members; (4) when required, the barracks capacity lost through this practice will be regained through construction of new 1 plus 1 barracks; (5) in lieu of the 1 plus 1 design, the Marine Corps is building new barracks with two-person sleeping rooms for junior Marines; (6) DOD justified the adoption of the 1 plus 1 standard primarily as an investment in quality of life aimed at improving military readiness and retention; (7) although barracks improvements do enhance individuals' quality of life, to what degree is unknown because quality of life is inherently difficult to quantify; (8) DOD has not developed any direct, quantitative evidence showing that barracks improvements, as distinct from other factors, result in improved readiness and retention; (9) even with existing barracks conditions, the services have achieved their first-term retention goals for the past 3 fiscal years with only one exception; (10) in FY 1998, the Air Force missed its first-term retention goal by one percentage point; (11) information collected from members that do not reenlist has shown that many factors other than housing, such as pay and promotion opportunities, are usually cited as the reasons for leaving the military; (12) GAO's comparison of barracks construction costs associated with alternative design standards showed significant differences in the amount of funds that would be required over and above what has already been funded; (13) because of the isolation provided in private rooms, the Marine Corps believes the 1 plus 1 standard does not allow for the unit cohesion and team building needed to reinforce Marine Corps values and develop a stronger bond among Junior Marines; and (14) the other services believe that the 1 plus 1 standard does not include these negative aspects because the standard applies only to permanent party personnel, not to recruits or initial trainees.

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