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HOUSING ACT OF 1954
THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 1954
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.C. The committee met, pursuant to recess, in room 301, Senate Office Building, at 10:10, Senator Wallace F. Bennett presiding.
Present: Senators Bricker, Bennett, Bush, Sparkman, and Frear.
Senator BENNETT. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have waited long enough. Let's begin the hearing this morning.
We will hear first Mr. John M. Ferry, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of the Air Force.
STATEMENT OF JOHN M. FERRY, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE UNDER SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE, ACCOMPANIED BY COL. HAL H. McCORD, USAF, AND JOHN MITCHELL, CHIEF, HOUSING DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Mr. FERRY. Good morning, sir.
Senator BENNETT. Good morning, Mr. Ferry. Will you identify yourself to the reporter.
Mr. FERRY. I am John M. Ferry, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, for Installations, and am here representing the Department of Defense, in this question of housing on Military Establishments.
Senator BENNETT. You may proceed, Mr. Ferry.
Mr. Ferry. I have a prepared statement which I would like to read and then answer any questions which the committee may have.
I have accompanying me today, Col. Hal McCord and Mr. John Mitchell, who will be able to furnish any detailed data with which I may not happen to be familiar, should the questions arise.
Senator BENNETT. Would you like to have Colonel McCord and Mr. Mitchell sit with you at the table.
Mr. FERRY. With your permission, I would.
Mr. FERRY. On behalf of the Department of Defense I wish to express my appreciation for this opportunity to appear before your committee and to present the Department's views on the extension of the Wherry Act.
The military departments have a very special interest in the legislation because it is one of the principal means by which the military services retain experienced and qualified personnel
. One of the quickest ways to lose our personnel is to effectively deny them the opportunity to maintain their families at their accustomed standard of living. Our surveys to determine factors that bear upon the decision to stay in or to get out shows that adequate housing is one of the principal considerations weighed by both the enlisted men and officer personnel. The lack of proper housing in the past, as you know, has caused the services to lose many fine well-trained individuals who might otherwise have made a career of service for our country. One of the greatest single items of expense that the services are forced to contend with is that expense incurred in training specialists to operate the highly technical equipment of modern warfare.
Training, of course, is always with us, but the cost of retraining to replace those who leave the service because of living conditions is very large indeed. The extension of title VIII of the National Housing Act which appears in section 128 of this bill, S. 2938, would continue for the military departments the existing authority through which permanent family housing can be provided and in this manner assist in retaining our experienced and qualified personnel.
The Wherry Act has been utilized to the fullest extent practicable at our permanent installations. It must be noted that the military utilization of installations has greatly changed within the past few years and particularly is this true of air installations.
During the last war airbases in this country were utilized principally for training and movement to combat areas. With the advent of long-range defensive weapons and striking forces, our installations have now become war operational areas either for offensive or defensive operations. When this fact is recognized, it becomes apparent that base life as it existed previously must be changed to meet the new military conditions.
For this reason the military departments must now of necessity bring their personnel closer and closer to the actual operating sites. It is imperative that we tune our thinking to this new concept and its relationship to the location of our people with respect to their job. Air Force personnel who may be unable to perform their military assignment within a very short time are not only a loss to the service but effectively reduce our ability to fight off invasion or to launch an effective counterattack.
For example, a fighter interceptor pilot or his crew chief obviously cannot live a great distance away from his base across a congested area of city traffic and be ready to do the job as effectively as if that pilot or crew chief were living on or adjacent to the base. Housing military families on the reservation, therefore, has been found to be the only practical method of assuring a constant availability of the maximum number of operational personnel in time of emergency.
The Wherry Act has contributed more to the stability and welfare of Air Force military personnel and military personnel of the other departments than any other similar measure pertaining to the provision of housing that has been adopted by the Congress. Rents in many locations are still beyond the financial capability of service personnel and impose quite a hardship on the serviceman who is transferred into an area of high costs. We are doing our best to provide the service- . man with housing where he will not be subject to rentals beyond his ability and substandard housing conditions. There are still areas where high rentals and high living costs cause some service personnel to live under other than desirable conditions.
The Wherry Act has assisted immeasurably at the permanent stations to correct these conditions but there is still much more room for improvement and there are still areas where rents are simply too high for our people to afford. Many sacrifices are made by service personnel to maintain their individual dignity and the dignity of the uniform.
The necessity for continuation of the Wherry Act can also be demonstrated by citing a few statistics. The Department's requirements for family housing for the 3 services total in the neighborhood of 600,000 units. The available housing amounts to about 200,000 units, leaving a deficiency of approximately 400,000 units. Of the amount available, about 87,000 units have been completed or certified under the Wherry program, and the Departments expect to construct 22,000 additional units under the provisions of the act. These units will be spread throughout the United States to increase the number of units at existing projects and provide new projects.
It may be noted that there is a vast difference between the requirement, the total available, and the remaining deficit. While we know that many organizations and individuals believe that the Wherry Act has been used more extensively than these figures demonstrate, it must be realized that even with all of the assistance of the Wherry program, the military must still rely for the greater part upon adjacent communities for family housing.
It is equally significant to note the number of temporary units which are currently in existence. Of the houses available, approximately 15,000 are of such temporary construction and have reached such an age that they are approaching a point where it is no longer economically feasible to continue maintenance. Maintenance on temporary units, and on the older public quarters, gradually reaches a point where the return is less than the investment warrants. These units are not only, therefore, unattractive from the point of view of living conditions, but are economically unsound.
The Wherry program is actively developed in consonance with the military public-works program. As you know, housing projects must be timed so that occupancy will be assured upon completion. It is very important, therefore, that we so plan and construct the Wherry units that they will be ready when the base or installation is completed. In no case thus far have we built the housing before an installation has been actually occupied. I believe, therefore, that the services are carrying out your wishes in properly providing the housing under the Wherry program, and recommend that the extension of the act be granted.
It would be unwise, I think, not to continue this program at this time, and it would certainly be unfair to require men who sacrifice so much by entering the service of their country to live apart from their families or force them to live under substandard conditions.
I should be very pleased, sir, to answer any questions that you gentlemen have in mind. Senator BENNETT. Senator Bush, do you have any questions? Senator Busi. I have no questions, Mr. Chairman.
Senator BENNETT. In your statement, you earlier referred to the need for housing on military bases, in order to affect the decision of men to enlist, or reenlist. Rather, to reenlist. Do you have any figures which bear on this situation?
Mr. FERRY. We had a survey, sir, which was made at several of our military installations, our Air Force installations, where query was directed to personnel whose terms of enlistment had expired, and who failed to reenlist, asking for the reasons behind the decision not to reenlist. I do not recall the number of the personnel who gave the answer that it was because of insufficient or unsatisfactory family housing, but it was in the neighborhood, if I recall, of 35 percent.
Senator BENNETT. Under the Wherry housing program, do you grade the rentals and the type of accommodations in relationship to the grades of the men who occupy them?
Mr. FERRY. No, sir. The rentals are dependent upon the size of the unit they occupy. That is to say, it is a 1- 2- or 3-bedroom house, depending upon the family necessities of the enlisted personnel.
Senator BENNETT. Does that same thing apply to officers, as applies to enlisted men ?
Mr. FERRY. Within the officer category, it again-regardless of rank of the officers—depends upon the number of bedrooms that they use.
Senator BENNETT. Do you have a certain type of housing for enlisted category and another type of housing for officer category?
Mr. FERRY. They are substantially the same, sir. The exterior finish may, in the officer category, may be a trifle higher grade of construction, but the size, appearance, and facilities are substantially equal.
Senator BENNETT. Are the rents substantially equal ?
Mr. Ferry. The officer rental may run a few dollars higher per month than the enlisted man. As a matter of fact, I would say they do run a few dollars higher per month. May I consult for a moment and give you the actual figures?
Mr. MITCHELL. The difference averages close to $20 a month. I might point out, though, the reason for that difference in the type of quarters. Officers, in many cases, will have individual units whereas the enlisted are largely in multiunit structures.
Senator BENNETT. Does the difference represent any subsidy of the enlisted man? It is my understanding that wherry housing is supposed to be rented at rates which will pay an adequate interest on the investment, which is private.
Mr. FERRY. That is correct. It is required to be self-supporting and to bring, of course, a reasonable profit to the sponsor.
Senator BENNETT. Taking all the Wherry housing at a single, given base, does that mean you're interested only in the total rent or is it each unit that is required to be self-supporting?
Mr. FERRY. It is the project as a whole that is required to be selfsupporting
Senator BENNETT. There can be differences within the same project ? Mr. FERRY. Within limits; yes.
Senator BENNETT. There is nothing in this bill that refers to housing of military personnel in Europe.
Mr. FERRY. No.
Senator SPARKMAN. Have any of the installations in which Wherry housing has been built been vacated ?
Mr. Ferry. There have been none so far. We have been very successful with it.
Senator SPARKMAN. We have had some complaints on title IX housing