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I-TEAM: Ossoff returns to Fort Gordon to announce progress

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 7:29 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After the release of an investigation critical of the contractor for privatized family housing at Fort Gordon, Sen. Jon Ossoff is calling for a full Department of Defense investigation of the problems.

It’s a problem our I-Team has been exposing for more than 10 years. A few weeks ago, Meredith Anderson was in Washington D.C for a hearing led by Senator John Ossoff.

Friday, Ossoff returned to Fort Gordon for the first time since that hearing, and Meredith was there as he made another announcement.

Ossoff is leading a bi-partisan inquiry, calling on the Secretary of Defense to now act. Below is the letter he and ranking member Senator Ron Jonson sent to Secretary Austin.

He’s asking three things:

  • Will the Air Force and Navy follow the Army’s lead and launch their investigation into Balfour Beatty?
  • Does the DOD need any additional legal authorities to improve oversight of these private housing companies?
  • Does the DOD have access to all original repair requests submitted by military families?

The hope is those requests will give a clear picture of what’s really going on, rather than relying on the housing companies to supply them.

“Ossoff expressed that he can’t promise he’ll fix everything, but he will promise to do his best. That little bit of hope is what military families are clinging on to right now,” said Jana Wanner, spouse of Ft. Gordon solder, lives off post.

Wanner would know. She testified on behalf of military families in 2019 when the military housing crisis first became a crisis and again on behalf of families still in crisis.

This comes after Ossoff’s 8-month investigation culminated in a damning report about mold and other problems on post -- that families testified made them sick.

What has that been like living in a home that hasn’t met your needs?

Chrissy Dykes has a son who’s been sick from living on post.

“It’s been a fight. It’s been doctors’ visits, it’s been inhalers, it’s been asthma flareups, it’s been skin issues,” said Dykes.

Families, living off post are now warning others via Facebook groups to stay away from Fort Gordon housing.

MORE THAN A DECADE OF I-TEAM COVERAGE:

Jason Shelsby, disabled veteran, runs the ‘Fort Gordon Spouse FB page’, said: “There are hundreds of thousands of photos that we have online of mold, mildew, insect infestation, improper care, and maintenance, toilets even falling through the floor.”

Some of those families spoke out under oath at a hearing last month. He returned to the place he first met those families months and months ago to give them an update.

Ossoff said: “We’ve already seen the impact of this investigation. The very next day the Army launched, not just an investigation but an audit and suspended all incentive payments to the company. There’s not a quick fix here, and we need to be clear-eyed about that.”

After meeting with families, the senator announced more forward progress.

“The step I’m taking today is leading a bi-partisan inquiry, asking the secretary of defense for information about how the Navy and Air Force responded and what other authorities the DOD may need to conduct effective oversight of private housing providers,” said Ossoff.

With the Army already investigating at Fort Gordon and Balfour Beatty bonus checks suspended, we haven’t seen this much action this quickly, and neither have families.

“I pledged after hearing the horror stories from families living on privatized housing on post that I would do everything in my power to address this issue,” he said.

He also tipped his hat to the I-Team.

“I want to let you know that your reporting and the broadcasters’ commitment to investigating this for years when you weren’t getting cooperation in that investigation is a big part of why we are where we are today,” said Ossoff.

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