From Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith
Trust and confidence are the foundational bedrock upon which effective command rests. These principles are directly tied to our mission; if we lose the trust of our Sailors, Marines and their families, if they are disconnected or distracted, the entire team suffers. The Sailors and Marines in our care must be confident that when they bring a problem to their chain of command – preferably to their division officer and their division chief – their command leadership will advocate tirelessly on their behalf.
We are facing an urgent issue affecting not only the trust and confidence of our Sailors and their families, but also their health, safety and well-being. As we have discovered, in some cases the condition of our government and public private venture family housing aboard our installations is not where it should be. Our Sailors and their families deserve safe, quality living quarters and commands must advocate for our Sailors and their families. To that end, we are prioritizing efforts to better understand our Sailors’ living conditions in on-base government family and PPV housing, to ensure that as residents, they are provided with the quality of life they have earned and deserve.
What went wrong? The government role in the privatized partnership arrangement has become too passive, leaving the day-to-day operation of the housing program to the residents and the private partners. We need to re-engage, especially at the command level, to advocate for our Sailors. CNIC, with support from OPNAV and NAVFAC, is on the job, already engaged in actions that will increase oversight of the partners, introduce improved quality assurance of the housing operations, follow-up on issues, add feedback mechanisms after trouble calls are closed out, focus on improved customer service, and begin a robust series of resident engagements ranging from email and social media outreach, town halls, and home visits by invitation. These efforts will be supplemented by command action on behalf of our Sailors and their families: 100 percent contact with all of your Sailors to invite them to specifically share their housing situation, experiences and unresolved issues. They may choose to decline these conversations, and they must not be pushed or pressured. During these conversations, for those in PPV or government housing, commands will offer to visit their residence if they desire. But visit or not, 100 percent of PPV residents will be engaged by their chain of command to ensure we understand their situation.
No later than April 15, 2019, every Sailor residing in PPV or government housing will be afforded an opportunity for a visit from their command at their residence. The purpose of these visits is threefold:
- to raise our Navy awareness of family living conditions
- to personally observe any issues affecting the home and to understand any actions being taken to address them
- if a problem is found, to help your Sailor and their family get the problem resolved. In short, the purpose of the visit is to be their advocate.
This is not an inspection program; visits are to be strictly voluntary, by invitation only, and executed in accordance with the process set forth below.
Every Sailor with a PPV or government residence will be personally asked by their division officer if they would like to schedule a time for a visit from leaders in their command, ideally their division chief and division officer, to put eyes on any problems that the Sailor and their family are experiencing. It will be made clear to the Sailor that allowing the visit is purely voluntary and there will be no negative ramifications should either the Sailor or the Sailor’s family member decline a visit. Sailors and families will have an opportunity to ask any questions about the visit. If Sailors and families agree to a visit, a two-person team, ideally the Sailor’s division officer and division chief, will conduct the home visit. During the visit, command leadership will discuss how any problems are being resolved. The discussion should include the Sailor and all other adult family members living in the residence, provided the family member desires to participate.
For officers in PPV or government housing desiring a visit, use a similar approach, with at least one of the visiting team being senior to that of the officer whose residence will be visited (e.g., the respective department head for a division officer).
Finally, the command will vigorously assist families to get problems fixed, using existing procedures. If the Sailor declines a visit, the division officer will offer to discuss any housing issues with the Sailor or their family members by phone. In taking these steps, we will enhance understanding between the command and each Sailor and their family.
Each team will consist of officers and/or chief petty officers only. In general, the most appropriate approach will be visits conducted by division officers and divisional leading chief petty officers. The uniform for the visit will be determined by the unit commanding officer. A minimum of one day prior to the scheduled visit, the senior member of the visit team will call or meet with the Sailor (or adult family member, if deployed) to be visited in order to confirm the time and date of the home visit.
At the beginning of the visit, the purpose of the visit will be explained to both Sailor and family and any datasheet used to record the information gathered during the visit will be shown to both. It is important to note that these visits are not inspections; they are by invitation of the residents and specifically intended to allow residents to raise concerns. The Sailor and family may end the visit at any time and for any reason. If at any time during the visit, the team believes that the visit is unfolding in an unhelpful way, the team leader will end the visit and report back to the unit commander. Before departing the residence, the visit team will offer to address any issues raised during the visit and to commit to following up on the issue with the Sailor. For instances where a Sailor reveals issues in PPV or government housing but declines a visit, the command will assist the Sailor by contacting the installation commanding officer, executive officer, command master chief and housing director
- Be sensitive to privacy concerns. There may be Sailors and families who will feel a visit to their home is a violation of their privacy. We must respect this view. The goals and methods of home visitation must be presented in a positive manner to ensure families understand that the visits have been designed exclusively to ensure their health and safety and to promote their quality of life. Visits will only proceed with the informed consent of the Sailor (or adult family member living in the residence, if the Sailor is deployed). All commands will take measures to ensure that we build trust through this process.
- There cannot be even the hint of retaliation or retribution. It should be the goal of every command that their Sailors bring these and other issues to their command leadership for resolution. Leadership, especially small unit leadership, should be eager to resolve these problems on behalf of their Sailors. These are often sensitive issues, often emotional, and each of us needs to adopt an attitude of seeking to understand and fix problems through frank and helpful conversations.
- Leaders shall not attempt to be property managers, personal finance counselors or admin specialists. They need to stand side-by-side with the Sailor while engaging with the base CO and base housing office through existing processes if issues are raised.
- For instances where a Sailor discloses issues with a private landlord not in PPV housing, you can help here too. Often, the best move is to direct the Sailor to meet with the local Region Legal Service Office who have legal assistance attorneys trained and experienced in local landlord-tenant law.
Unit commanders shall prepare implementation guidance required for visit teams from their command. Prior to beginning command visits, the cognizant staff judge advocate and/or offices of general counsel attorney shall be consulted.
No actions taken in support of this NAVADMIN shall replace business agreement manager responsibilities with regard to the ongoing execution of PPV operating agreements. Specifically, visit teams and commands shall not engage with PPV partners directly to ensure discrepancies are corrected. All necessary corrective actions shall be referred to installation commanders for action in accordance with existing approved procedures.
ISICs and TYCOMs shall ensure 100 percent of families of deployed commands are contacted and offered a visit. In all cases, visits shall be conducted no later than April 15.
Visits of residences aboard Army, Air Force and Marine Corps installations shall be recorded and issues referred from unit commanders to the respective host installation and passed as information to the appropriate regional commander area of responsibility.
CNIC and regional commands shall be available if requested to provide advice to installations and tenant commands on Family Housing policy, and associated legal concerns through April 15.
All home visitation records will be submitted to the designated representative of the unit commander, ISIC or TYCOM as appropriate.
Observations taken are not considered records for purposes of the Privacy Act, nor will the observations be made part of a system of records. However, all home visitation records will be handled and secured as if those records were personally identifiable information to protect the privacy of visited families.
All home visitation records will be destroyed no later than one year after the date of the home visit.
Observations recorded will not be used for the completion of evaluations and fitness reports.
CNIC is responsible for providing additional guidance and answering questions from commands in response to this NAVADMIN. Unit commanders shall address questions through host installations to the local regional commander prior to elevating issues and concerns to CNIC.
Unit commanders shall notify their chain of command when all Sailor-families have been contacted and when all visits are complete. Echelon Two commanders shall notify CNIC when 100 percent contact is achieved and when visits are complete. The master database for all PPV issues brought to leadership attention resides at the base housing office level, hence the importance of all issues being provided to the installation command and housing office team for tracking and resolution.
I realize this is an intrusive “ask” for a lot of folks who are already doing a lot of important work. However, it is essential that we strengthen the bonds of trust and confidence with our Sailors and their families. Let’s get to it.
Editor’s note: This blog was adapted from NAVADMIN 043/19 that was released Feb. 23, 2019.