Billion-dollar cuts may lead to boarded windows, Soldiers as groundskeepers
Spc. Robert Lofranco, an automated tactical data systems specialist with Company B, 20th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, mows the grass outside of the III Corps motor pool as other Soldiers remove weeds from a drainage ditch outside of the motor pool.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 27, 2013) -- Sequestration for the Army will mean a significant cut to facilities maintenance, a severe cut in contract services provided on installations, and a reduction in Soldier training and readiness.

Total cuts to the "operations and maintenance - Army" budget, called "OMA," will leave the service with about $2 billion to support garrisons and training for the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The OMA account supports the war effort and other operations around the world; pays for training, exercises and mission support; base operations support and facilities sustainment; and Soldier and family programs.

During a media engagement Feb. 27, at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Karen E. Dyson, director of the Army Budget Office, called the cuts and fiscal uncertainty "dire" and "unprecedented" for the Army.

Budget numbers may be nebulous for many, Soldiers included. But Brig. Gen. Curt A. Rauhut, director of resource management for Installation Management Command, painted a picture for reporters that clarifies what the cuts will actually mean for Soldiers around the Army.

With cuts to the budget for Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, which provides utilities, airfield services, public works, law enforcement, access control, fire and emergency services and family services to some 75 installations across the world, Rauhut said life on an Army base could get difficult for those who live there.

"(For) a Soldier living in a barracks that has a leaky roof, we may not be able to fund that to repair that roof," he said. "We may have to throw a tarp over it to repair that roof. Or say a window is broken, we may not be able to replace that window, we may have to provide a piece of plywood or electrical tape. Or if a water main breaks within a barracks, we may have to direct that Soldier to leave his barracks and take a shower in some other barracks."

Rauhut said sustainment to facilities will be reduced by about $2 billion dollars, which represents a reduction to 37 percent of the command's actual requirement.

"It is a concern of not having the funding for restoration and modernization, or even enough funding to sustain the facilities that we have currently out there," Rauhut said.

Rauhut said IMCOM also handles facility services, paying for those who pick up the trash and mow the lawns, for instance. Those services could be cut with sequestration in some places. Somebody will need to do them, but Rauhut said he doesn't want for it to have to be Soldiers.

"Do we want our Soldiers to be doing refuse removal?" he asked. "Do we want them to be riding around on lawnmowers and cutting grass; do we want them to do custodial services? With our force today, I think we'd rather have them flying helicopters, doing live-fire exercise out on the ranges. Every dollar we don't put toward services contracts, that is Soldiers now doing that type of work."

CUTS TO FAMILY PROGRAMS

IMCOM doesn't just fund maintenance of buildings, it also funds programs that maintain families.

Rauhut said some family programs will need to be reduced. Family programs include community and family support centers, Army community services, child youth services, and Soldier recreation programs, for instance.

Rauhut said all of those are being looked at now for cuts.

"I can see where there are decrements to child youth services," he said. Those cuts could impact hours of availability, where Soldiers who use those services would need to adjust their own schedules. Availability of Soldier recreation centers may also have to be adjusted, including youth sports programs, for instance.

READINESS SUFFERS

Soldiers slated for deployment to Afghanistan, Soldiers in Afghanistan, Soldiers preparing for assignment in Korea, and Soldiers already in Korea, as well as Soldiers who are part of the Army's Global Response Force will all be trained to 100 percent, Dyson said. But those Soldiers represent about 22 percent of the Army.

The remainder of Soldiers will not be able to train the way the Army needs them to, and as a result, their skill sets will languish and deteriorate. The more time Soldiers go without training, the longer it will take for them to become prepared to go to war, and that could mean delays in their deployments, and delays in redeployments for Soldiers already there.

"The Army is going to send trained, ready units into harm's way," said Maj. Gen. Robert M. Dyess, director of force development, Army G8. "That is our task, that is our duty, and that's what we're going to do. If we believe that a unit does not receive the training, that they don't get the equipment, if there's a timing issue to this, we won't send them downrange until they are ready. That means we may have to look at an option that we did in the '06-'07 time frames, to keep some units longer."

Budget cuts mean Soldiers won't be able to train as much or to the level they have been training to in the past. That shortfall is exacerbated by cuts to Army depots, which means it will take longer for the Army to reset the equipment that is needed for training.

Dyson said changes made to depot maintenance throughput could delay equipment by as much as three to four years getting back to units.

BUDGET CUT '666'

"The fiscal crisis that we face today can be framed by three numbers, 6, 6 and 6," Dyson told reporters.

The Army has not received an appropriation for fiscal year 2013. Instead, the Army runs on a "continuing resolution" that funds the Army in fiscal year 2013 at the same amount that was provided to the service in fiscal year 2012. The funding for this fiscal year underfunds the OMA account by about $6 billion, Dyson said, about 17 percent less than what the Army had asked for in the submitted fiscal year 2013 budget. It asked for $36 billion, but due to a CR, it instead got $30 billion.

Dyson also said that the war in Afghanistan is costing more during this period than what the Army had planned for, something it does 18 months in advance. As a result of increased costs, there is a shortfall in the overseas contingency operations budget, or OCO, of about $6 billion. One cause is that the Army is now retrograding equipment out of Afghanistan, but the routes the Army planned to use to get equipment out of the country are not as usable as they could be. Instead, the Army is paying more to fly equipment out of country, or move it out through a more expensive route, such as north through India.

Finally, sequestration pulls about $12 billion out of the Army across all appropriations, but about half of that, $6 billion, will come from the OMA account.

Funding for the Army's OMA account is under siege from three directions -- about $6 billion due to a shortfall in the continuing resolution, about $6 billion due to increased costs to fight the war, and about $6 billion that will come from sequestration.

Dyson said the Army will protect funding for the war effort, for wounded warrior programs, and for some Soldier and family programs that are deemed critical. So money for those programs, which represents about 43 percent of the OMA budget, is "protected."

"This means that this reduction of $18 billion has to be taken against the unprotected amount," she said. The unprotected amount comes to $34 billion for fiscal year 2013, about $14 billion of which has been spent already. For the remainder of the fiscal year, the Army has about $2 billion left to spend from the OMA budget on training, facilities, maintenance, and family and Soldier programs.

"The cumulative effects with a start so late in the year will stress and shock our workforce," Dyson said. "It will cause an erosion of readiness across our non-deployed force that will extend well into [fiscal year 2014] and beyond, and potentially put us at risk for meeting the nation's demands."

Page last updated Wed February 27th, 2013 at 00:00