Poll: Background Checks for Everyone Who Lives on Base?

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A recently released Inspector General report shows that military bases aren’t always so good about doing the required background checks on non-Defense Department related civilians who have rented on base housing. And now we want to know what you think about it.

Here’s a little background. When privatized military housing rates fall below 95 percent, housing companies are allowed, by law, to open those spots up to other people through what is known as the “waterfall.” Military retirees, National Guard and Reserve families and DoD civilian employees all get preference. If housing is still available after it has been opened to those folks, the company can offer it to “general public residents.”

And herein lies the problem. Military bases are supposed to be secure. That’s why visitors who don’t have ID cards are required to have a series of background checks through certain systems such as the FBI’s (exactly which systems are used depends on which service is doing it). But we also think of them as being a sort of gated community, and feel a sense of safety, false or not.

Military community members have complained that letting non-DoD affiliated civilians live on base destroys that feeling. And now this IG report adds to that fear. Investigators found that about 86 percent of the 128 non-DoD civilians who lived on three randomly selected bases did not have complete background checks done. Ten of them had no background check done at all.

Say what? Read the entire Military.com story here.

Some say that beyond the clear double standard at play — that non-DoD visitors must be screened but non-DoD residents sometimes aren’t — we are really kidding ourselves if we think on-base living is any more secure than off-base. After all, military dependents do not undergo background checks before getting an ID, creating a separate double standard. A military spouse could’ve just done his or her jail time for being an ax-murderer, and still live on base. Registered sex offenders who are military dependents regularly live on base.

Base is simply not secure from criminals, as long as they have some kind of military family affiliation.

Before the report was released in April and made publicly available late this month, officials on the bases examined said they had corrected the problem, and two of the three services examined said they had a plan to go over every non-DoD resident’s background check.

But there’s still no discussion over the elephant in the room — that background checks are given to one category of people, but not another, despite the fact that none of them are actually in the military themselves.

So what do you think? Should everyone who lives on post be required to have a background check and excluded from housing if it raises a red flag?

Fill out my online form.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.