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Inhofe says Pentagon leaders lost trust over ‘dismal’ military housing

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U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe told top Pentagon leaders Thursday that they must regain the trust of military personnel and families who lived in “dismal” private housing in Oklahoma and other states.

“The chain of command failed to take care of its own, and lost their trust,’’ Inhofe said at a hearing in Washington of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Now, the chain of command must regain that trust.”

Inhofe, chairman of the committee, pointed out in the audience Janet Driver, whose family grew sick because of mold problems in private housing at Tinker Air Force Base, near Oklahoma City. Inhofe said he heard from families late last year “about the dismal conditions they faced in private housing in Oklahoma and then around the country.”

Driver testified to the committee last month, “They are covering up, painting over mold, threatening military members with their command, using scare tactics and intimidation, lying to us and making the problems worse. And now, it is out of control.”

Civilian and military heads of the services told the committee Thursday that they accepted blame for the problems and were moving quickly to find remedies. One proposal being pursued by the service chiefs is a tenant bill of rights that would allow military personnel to withhold rent if problems aren’t fixed.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who visited Tinker and other bases after the conditions were reported — first in an investigation by the Reuters news agency — said Thursday, “What we really didn’t understand was the decline of trust and confidence among airmen that problems would get fixed.”

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper said, “I think the chain of command over the past 20 years has slowly walked away from being involved in the housing of our soldiers and our families.”

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