The shame of Camp Roberts
March 27, 2011
The California Army National Guard has come to depend upon Camp Roberts, on the northern tip of San Luis Obispo County, as its primary training facility, but a new investigation reveals a facility in great disrepair amid waste on a grand scale. [Sacramento Bee]
Soldiers, many of whom are on their way to Afghanistan or Iraq, arrive at Camp Roberts to find neither air conditioning nor heat available in the barracks. In Building 4001, service members routinely find raw sewage bubbling up in the showers and toilets.
Scores of buildings on the base created as temporary structures during the urgency of World War II are still in use with jury-rigged plumbing, missing floor coverings and peeling paint. Some are falling apart.
An extensive investigation by the Sacramento Bee found that millions of dollars in building materials, appliances and other supplies sit unused or ruined in Camp Roberts warehouses. Inventory controls are so poor, according to internal Guard reports obtained by The Bee, that officials don’t know what they have or what is missing. Meanwhile, the camp routinely orders dozens of unneeded items.
The squalor at Camp Roberts stands in marked contrast to nearby Camp San Luis Obispo, which boasts a well-appointed officers club and picturesque chapel with gazebo. Camp San Luis Obispo has been updated and expanded over the years.
Camp Roberts is by far the largest of the California Guard’s three major training camps. On average more than 1,100 soldiers train here per day. Counting salaries for 560 full-time employees, modernization and federal stimulus funds, camp officials project its annual economic footprint at $58 million.
But a June 2010 inspection report obtained by The Bee suggests that some of the shabbiness stems from a breakdown in storing and tracking millions of dollars of supplies and tools in a row of 70-year-old, rundown warehouses where appliances and office furniture rust outside on loading docks.
The report says accounting for much of the property was impossible, in part because more than half of all contents, valued at millions of dollars, were not logged. Sorely needed building materials, worth an estimated half-million dollars, had aged past their usable life span. Sheetrock and wood doors rotted outside, according to the report, and vehicles damaged in accidents were left untouched for up to a year.
Another camp report says only one warehouse worker was employed to maintain the camp’s entire inventory in buildings with jumbled shelves and leaky roofs. Even four full-time workers, the report indicated, would need more than 18 months to put the warehouses right.
Meanwhile, Camp Roberts purchased dozens of unused weed trimmers and 31 sets of 100 drill bits, the inspector indicated, “even though they have hundreds of spare bits on hand.”
“If the people of the state of California knew how their tax money is being spent but then not used,” the inspector wrote, “there would be an uproar.”