New homes for Fort Eustis generals get pricey upgrades


by David Alan

Posted on September 22, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:18 PM

NORFOLK -- When world-class chefs face off on the Bravo Network's Top Chef Masters, they’re cooking on GE Monogram stoves and ovens.

The high-end appliances aren't just for the pros. The Army installed GE Monogram ranges in seven new homes being built for general officers who were transferred to Fort Eustis as a result of BRAC.

The top general will get something even pricier.

The Army would not tell us which models were put in, but based on advertised prices, the ranges cost you as much as $60,000.

The homes got other upgrades, like hardwood floors and granite counter tops.

Is this wasteful spending on the part of the military?

"They risk losing their lives for us, and I'm going to fight over whether they can have a granite counter top? No," said Linda Gunn, a member of the Portsmouth Tea Party Alliance.

Karen Miner Hurd with the Va. Beach Tea Party Alliance had another view, "No one wants to begrudge anyone anything, but is that the best use of dollars at this time?"

That's the very question for Congress right now. A recent Senate conference committee report on military construction spending raised the red flag, noting "The Committee is concerned that the Department of Defense is spending an inordinate amount of taxpayer funds on leases, maintenance and upgrades to general and flag officer quarters."

The National Taxpayer's Union said it’s time to cut military fat before military muscle.

"Every dollar that gets spent on things like General Officer Quarters upgrades might be money that might be spent for other defense priorities for troops in the field," Pete Sepp told us.

That fine line is the challenge facing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He recently said any cuts to the military budget beyond the $400 billion Congress set out in the debt-limit agreement would make America less safe.

"This this is not just necessarily a taxpayer issue. There are issues of fairness, to other service members, enlisted folks as well as junior officers who are genuinely struggling to get by on the pay and benefits they have right now," Sepp added.

That argument hit home with Fred Potter, who served on USS New Jersey.

"My son-in-law, it's tough to make ends meet," Potter said. "You buy a jacket for some $130 or $149 and some boots for $149 and your budget goes out the window."

The Army would not agree to be interviewed for our story, but officials said the cost was carefully considered in building the new homes.

While some are as large as 4500-square feet, they said the homes are smaller and more energy efficient than the old ones at Fort Monroe and designed to allow top brass to carry out their “representational responsibilities include hosting senior ranking officials, foreign military officers, and dignitaries."

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd D) was the only local congressman who weighed in on the issue. After 13News told him about the upgrades, he fired off a letter to the Secretary of the Army asking for an explanation for the expenditures.