Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Explaining the "privatization" in NOPE

Those new to our grassroots group's objections to the Department of Navy's plan to unimpededly open Laurelwood "privatized" housing within the perimeter of Weapons Station Earle to civilians later this year may wonder why the heck NOPE opposes "privatization" at the 11,000-acre Monmouth County base that spans Colts Neck, Tinton Falls, Howell and Middletown.

To be sure, the 300 two- to four-bedroom Laurelwood townhomes (originally built for Navy dependents' use from 1988-2010) at NWS Earle are already "privatized," built in the late 1980s by contractor Laurelwood Homes, LLC predecessor "Dick Fischer Development #3." In essence, "privatization" refers to the Department of Defense's shift to private contractors to build and manage military housing, usually in 50-year stretches for each development. (This practice continues today under so-called PPV, or public-private ventures, started in 1996 after the U.S. quickly realized that Section 801 housing - Laurelwood's classification - was an utter disaster for the Military's housing construction needs. To be sure, this August 2008 report from the DoD Inspector General delves into 801 housing, and sheds light on potential civilian housing at Fort Hood...and unfortunately we know what has happened there...)

Anyway, NOPE's briefing last Thursday of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Congress's investigative resource, led to our discovery of the GAO's May 2009 study (GAO-09-352) on the issue of military housing privatization - one that is worth reading to all members of the general public (in addition to the 2008 IG report).

Although we expect to follow later with a more-detailed thoughts on GAO-09-352 as it relates to the merits of NOPE's objection to civilian housing at Earle, as informants to the public, we would encourage you to spend some time reading this 50-page document for background on the inner workings of the benefits and drawbacks of military housing privatization. It is an interesting case study in how military housing typically works (or does not work). And, as always, we welcome any feedback, commentary and questions here on our NOPE blog.

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