The Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment, Phyllis L. Bayer, has tendered her resignation after a little more than a year at her post and “will retire from government and pursue other opportunities,” the Pentagon announced Friday.
In a statement posted online, Navy officials applauded her service and expressed gratitude for “her extraordinary efforts this past year."
Appointed to the position on Feb. 20, 2018 after confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Bayer’s wide responsibilities included oversight and policy for sustaining, restoring and modernizing all Navy and Marine Corps facilities; protecting the environment at bases; and preserving the safety and occupational health of personnel.
But Bayer’s brief tenure collided with a tsunami of complaints from military families about abysmal living conditions in privatized housing, including allegations of widespread mold problems, rat infestation and crumbling structures after years of neglect.
During a Feb. 13 showdown with the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Personnel Readiness and Management Support Committee, Bayer conceded that some private landlords “failed to meet the standards and we must hold them and ourselves accountable" but insisted that the vast majority of sailors and their families in 62,713 privatized residences nationwide approved of their living conditions.
At the end of her testimony, however, she acknowledged that “the incidents highlighted in the recent media represent opportunities for us to improve.”
The Navy announced her resignation 23 days later.
Attempts by Navy Times to reach Bayer, 55, were not successful but Navy Times was provided with a farewell email message she sent to military families.
She told them that the last day of her 30-year-career would arrive on March 30 but she planned on focusing her remaining time at the Navy on “addressing your housing issues," including stops over the next two weeks at Florida’s Naval Station Mayport and Georgia’s Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
Bayer indicated that she intended to meet with families “and carry back your message” to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.
“Meanwhile, I’m working very hard with the leaders in the Pentagon to right the wrongs in our privatized housing," she wrote.
Before her appointment last year at the Navy, Bayer was a career public servant, holding key positions at the Pentagon’s Personnel and Readiness wing, the Defense Business Board and the Army.
Her federal accolades included the Office of the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Recognition Medallion and the Army’s Superior Civilian Service Award.
In the Navy’s online statement, officials indicated they were reevaluating options with the portfolio Bayer oversaw “due to competing priorities” but said Navy Secretary Spencer “remains fully committed to the role and responsibilities" of the post and has "begun an active search for an equally qualified candidate” to replace her.
And an acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick M. Shanahan, continues to run the Pentagon following the abrupt Dec. 20 resignation of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis over the plans and policies of President Donald J. Trump.
This article was updated to include a farewell message circulated by the departing Bayer.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.