Navy, Marines begin massive housing inspection

The inspections are mandatory for all houses, and will give the services a better understanding of the overall condition of privately-operated homes on their ba...

The Marine Corps and Navy are beginning third-party inspections of all of their privatized military housing, an undertaking that will encompass tens of thousands of homes.

The inspections are mandatory for all houses, and will give the services a better understanding of the overall condition of privately-operated homes on their bases.

“The inspections will be performed by two-person teams of certified home inspectors, graduate engineers and professional engineers,” a Marine Corps release stated. “Inspections will include home interiors and exteriors, heating and cooling systems, equipment drainage, landscaping and other improvements. Only components, systems and elements of the property that are readily accessible will receive inspection.”

The Department of the Navy hired Jacobs Engineering and HDR Engineering to conduct the independent reviews.

“Once completed, the inspection reports will provide the Marine Corps with a better understanding of the overall condition of the homes so that we can work with our privatized partners on potential improvements that will directly benefit present and future tenants,” the release said.

The inspections stem from the 2020 defense authorization act. After years of hearing reports of pests, mold, lead paint and other substandard living conditions in privatized military homes, Congress and the military services wanted a better understanding of the situation on the ground.

The law required the Defense Department to submit a plan to contract with a third party company to assess the structural integrity and habitability of each privatized housing unit.

“The committee is concerned that the confirmed military privatized housing crisis has created immediate needs for military families but also requires long-term and consistent oversight for the viability of the program,” the lawmakers wrote. “The committee believes that the totality of the condition of housing under the privatization initiative is unknown. The committee notes that, during its investigation of the MHPI program, both individual homes and entire neighborhoods were neglected as it relates to required preventative and curative maintenance. The committee is concerned that, if measures are not taken to ensure the long-term viability of the current inventory, the DoD may receive its housing inventory back in less than ideal conditions, leading to higher maintenance costs in the future.”

The third party inspections are also intended to give service members and their families’ some peace of mind in not having representatives from the military inspect their homes. Some families were concerned that they may incur repercussions from their commands if they complained about housing conditions to military representatives.

The services plan to wrap up the inspections by October. — SM

Navy rolling out remote desktops to reservists after ‘overwhelmingly positive’ pilot project

For members of the Navy’s far-flung reserve force, getting access to government IT networks is about to get a whole lot easier. The service is preparing for the “imminent” rollout of a new virtual desktop service that’ll let sailors log in from anywhere, and from pretty much any device — including personally-owned ones.

The upcoming deployment comes after a 250-user pilot that was “overwhelmingly positive,” Vice Adm. John Mustin, the chief of the Navy Reserve told sailors during a town hall this month. He said the new virtual desktop service will be platform-agnostic, and work whether the end user is logging in via a Navy-owned computer, a personally-owned one running Windows or MacOS, or a personal tablet or phone.

Virtual and remote desktops have become one important way agencies have delivered IT services to their work-from-home users during the pandemic, but the use case is compelling for the Navy Reserve even in the best of times, since a huge chunk of its 50,000 members don’t have easy access to a Navy Reserve Center or other facility with access to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

“We’re a distributed force. In many cases, we’re far from fleet concentration areas,” Mustin said. “The things that our active duty counterparts take for granted simply don’t exist to reach our sailors who are in Montana, or in South Dakota, where they’re far from clusters of Navy infrastructure. So we need to be smart about how we provide access.”

The transition to  common, remotely-provided desktop environment also dovetails with the Navy’s move to consolidate its email, collaboration and productivity services into a single Microsoft 365 offering called Operation Flank Speed. Among other things, that move will eliminate disparate Outlook calendars and the need to access local commands’ shared drives via VPNs.

For the near-term, users will still need to use Common Access Cards to access the system, but the Navy is working on other forms of two-factor authentication.

About 10% of the Navy Reserve’s users have transitioned to Flank Speed so far; its full complement of 60,000 reserve sailors should be moved by the end of March, officials say.

Also, by the end of the year, the Reserve plans to issue each of its sailors softphones, each with phone numbers tied to their Flank Speed accounts. Mustin said that transition is in keeping with the rest of the Reserve’s effort to get out of the IT hardware procurement business to the greatest extent possible.

“We don’t want to buy stuff that times out and becomes obsolete,” he said. “How many of you wrestled through the 1909 Microsoft software update that turned all the laptops into a brick a couple of years ago? We recognize, through Moore’s Law, that we don’t need to buy hardware. What we need to do is buy access and services.” —JS

Vets with jobs, community more likely to stick with PTSD treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition impacting a large range of veterans, however, treating the condition properly can be a challenge.

The RAND Corporation recently took a deep dive into academia to find out what factors lead veterans sticking with treatments for PTSD and how they respond to it.

“Knowing which aspects of programs are associated with better response could help design more effective programs, and finding pretreatment patient characteristics that can serve as red flags for dropout or prompts to monitor specific patients more closely would be a valuable tool for clinical practice,” the authors wrote.

By searching through 70 studies, RAND found several factors keep vets showing up to therapy and other treatments.

Being married, older and having more severe PTSD are all factors that keep vets in treatment. Additionally, mental illness comorbidities and high treatment expectations keep people coming back.

Depression and service-related disabilities tended to have lower retention.

Not surprisingly, higher retention led to a higher response to treatments. However, there were other factors too. Higher income, employment and social support all factored into a better response to treatment.

Individual therapy also tended to increase response compared to group therapy. There was no difference in response when comparing telehealth to in-person therapy visits.

Depression, anger, higher PTSD severity and combat exposure led to lower response rates.

The authors also added in recommendations for how to better work with and help vets with PTSD. RAND suggests identifying vets with service-related disabilities during admission so efforts can be taken to retain them in treatment.

RAND found there was a lack of academic work between patient pain and response to PTSD treatment and tagged it as an area for future study. — SM

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