WASHINGTON — How do you fix a problem if you truly don't know how bad it is?
That's the bottom line from a brand new report on the Department of Defense's oversight of the 14 companies which run the military's privatized housing properties for some 200,000 military families across the country.
The Government Accountability Office says the military branches do not have reliable information about how the troops and their families feel about their living conditions.
"One of the issues we encountered when we did out audit is there really is no good way of knowing just how extensive the problem is," said Elizabeth Field of the GAO.
She says her office studied eight million residence complaint work order records.
"And what we found is that the data were so unreliable that we couldn't use those to determine the prevalence of any one hazard," she said.
One flaw the GAO highlighted was the annual tenants' satisfaction survey, which it said "may not provide meaningful information or reflect the actual condition of the housing units."
"There again we found that the data that the Department has collected and provided related to customer satisfaction is so unreliable that that too is not a way to know just how prevalent those problems are," Field said.
Last December, Congress approved a $300 million bill designed to fix the housing problems.
The report's authors offered 12 recommendations to improve the situation.