Md. lawmakers call for hot showers, air conditioning at Walter Reed barracks in Bethesda

Three Maryland lawmakers are concerned about what they called “unacceptable living conditions” at the Naval Support Activity Bethesda, which is home to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Rep. Jamie Raskin and Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin are calling for the conditions to be improved.

In a letter addressed to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, the three Democrats cited a report from the Navy Times that said enlisted sailors and soldiers experienced harsh living conditions at two barracks, Sanctuary Hall and Comfort Hall. Combined, they house about 500 service members.

A spokesperson for Navy Support Activity Bethesda has since agreed with calls for the right to basic comforts like hot water and reliable heating and air conditioning.

“We are going to do everything we can to ensure they do,” they said in response to WTOP’s reporting.

The report describes months without air conditioning last summer when rooms would rise to a sweltering 95 degrees. Often, rooms were assigned with no working thermostats or fridges.

There was limited access to hot water too, meaning a cold shower after a 10- to 12-hour shift at Walter Reed.

The Navy Times described Naval Support Activity Bethesda leadership admitting the reporting processes were problematic and “some of our people who were not taking care of these trouble tickets the right way, and we screwed that up.”

In the letter to Naval leadership, the lawmakers addressed the firehouse at Naval Support Activity Bethesda as well. They said it has deteriorated to an “unacceptable state” that is “plagued by mold, asbestos, roof leaks, electrical issues and structural instability — even before a 2019 fire rendered approximately half of the facility uninhabitable.” 

Raskin, Van Hollen and Cardin have requested a response from Del Toro no later than Feb. 24, with details of immediate and long-term plans to improve the barracks and firehouse.

“We owe it to the men and women entrusted to the care of this installation that NSA-Bethesda and Walter Reed are home to world-class facilities and management,” the letter stated.

Naval Support Activity Bethesda responded to these calls, saying that they were working with the leadership of individual residents and ensuring that those service members are taken care of.

“With additional resources provided by the Navy, we’ve been able to accelerate repairs that were already underway to address hot water issues in our Unaccompanied Housing buildings,” they wrote in a statement. “We’re also working to address other concerns brought up by the residents at town halls held Feb. 3 and 4.”

WTOP’s Ivy Lyons contributed to this report.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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