By Allison Kirschbaum

The Army has high hopes of working on its new building of privatized barracks for junior enlisted troops. Next year, the latest U.S. Army barracks will be built at Fort Irwin, CA. Further, Carla Coulson, a deputy assistant Army secretary overseeing housing and residential partnerships, showed optimism about the project. However, she emphasized that building these barracks is not economical at most army installations. Coulson even added that this solution may work at some locations and not all due to some installations being unsuitable due to population instability, insufficient housing allowance rates, lack of suitable land for the project, or low projected demand.

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What to Expect With the New U.S. Army Barracks

Fort Irwin, also home to the National Training Center, is a suitable location for the new private U.S. Army barracks. It has relative isolation, high housing allowance rates, and, most importantly, population stability, Coulson added. The distant southeastern California housing allowance rates can rival those in the metropolitan area. For example, a captain with dependents receives $2,688/month at Fort Irwin. At the same time, the same officer can receive $2,568/month in Atlanta.

The pilot privatized barracks project plan is still under staff assessments at the Defense Department level. Before the construction can begin, approval from the budget officials is needed. Once everything is approved, the service must negotiate with Michaels Organization (they are responsible for administering existing privatized family housing at Fort Irwin) and pass an environmental assessment before breaking ground.

Tentative plans for the Irwin project call for around 500 soldiers' worth of two-bedroom suites categorized into approximately company-sized buildings. Coulson mentioned that each suite will have a kitchen and living area under the current plan. The complex will have amenities like business centers, a fitness facility, and a swimming pool.

The pilot project's success will be measured via command feedback, tenant satisfaction surveys, occupancy rates/waitlist length, and financial projections. These housing projects even self-fund their renovations with the help of mandatory reinvestment accounts.

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Does the U.S. Army Barracks Pass Quality Inspection?

Once the Fort Irwin model proves successful, the Army can reallocate construction funding to build Army-owned barracks there and at a few other sites for privatized U.S. Army barracks projects.

Coulson explained that they are going to use around $250 million of military construction funds to build in other places where there is a greater need.

With the ongoing projects and plans, some critics of the U.S. Army barracks point out some endemic issues with privatized on-post family housing projects. Last year, the Army failed to implement adequate inspection mechanisms and oversight for those homes.

However, Coulson argued that the service’s current privatized unaccompanied quarters—mainly intended for noncommissioned and single officers—had unfailingly scored very well in its housing satisfaction surveys. Further, a watchdog report in September 2023 found that the condition of the U.S. Army barracks buildings all across the DOD exceeded quality standards.

The housing official also added that service members in the privatized barracks would surely enjoy the protection provided under the DOD’s Tenant Bill of Rights, especially regarding their relationship with the company issuing the project.

Privatized Army Barracks for the Servicemen

The launch of the privatized Army barracks represents only a small part of the efforts being made to improve the quality of the Army's barracks which could also lead to better-quality housing.

All agencies and people involved are doing a lot of work to understand how they can better provide the service members with conducive barracks. With better, effective, and quick inventory, this can be achievable. Coulson mentioned, "Privatized U.S. Army barracks is just like one tool in a toolbox that we can use."

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