By Andrea Stone (Fort Carson)August 22, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, topped off a three-day visit to Fort Carson by attending a naturalization ceremony at the Freedom Performing Arts Center, Aug. 15.
After the ceremony, Hammack discussed the challenges Fort Carson faces at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. On Aug. 13, she met with representatives of the Las Animas County community where PCMS is located to discuss issues related to the site.
The Army was granted authority in 2007 to expand PCMS, but never acted on that authority.
"We have never budgeted the funds, and we have never followed through on expansion because, as time went by, and with the pace of deployments and fighting the fight, we did not use Piñon Canyon as much as we would have if everyone was stationed at home," Hammack said.
With the reduced pace of deployments and the reduction in forces, there may not be a need for expansion.
"Now that everybody's coming home, we're going to take a look and see if (there's) any need to expand and, frankly, with the Army getting smaller, there's a good chance we will not need to expand," she said.
If expansion is not necessary, the surrounding community has asked that the waiver giving the Army authority to expand be rescinded. The waiver was required in order for the Army to acquire additional land at PCMS due to a Department of Defense-imposed moratorium on major land acquisitions by the military services.
If the waiver is rescinded, and the Army decides to expand PCMS in the future, the process would start all over again. The Army would have to request another waiver to the moratorium.
"I've pledged to the community that I would investigate that … in conjunction with the (post) here, and that we would get back to them within the next three to six months with an answer," she said.
Preserving the ability of troops to train at PCMS is vital though, Hammack said.
Army readiness also depends on maintaining Fort Carson's resources through the net zero program, she said.
"(It's) an opportunity for us to demonstrate the leadership to enable the garrison and our Soldiers to have the resources they need to train and fight," she said.
Fort Carson was selected as one of two Army installations to pursue net zero energy, water and waste goals by 2020. The other installation selected was Fort Bliss, Texas.
The goals of the net zero program are to reduce energy usage, provide alternative energy sources, conserve water and reduce waste.
"It's really about resilience," she said. "We would like every one of our posts, camps and stations to be resilient so we can serve the nation in case of natural disaster or man-made disaster," Hammack said.
The goal would be for Fort Carson to produce more energy through renewable energy initiatives -- such as the photovoltaic solar array system -- than it needs so some could be provided to the surrounding community.
In the event of a disaster contaminating the water supply, it would be important for Fort Carson to support itself from a protected source, and then share that with the community, she said.
The net zero waste goal is about managing waste so that Fort Carson is not the largest contributor to the local landfill, she said.
"When Fort Carson stepped up to be one of the net zero installations in all three categories … they pledged to work to demonstrate how your post can become more resilient through net zero," she said.
In July, Fort Carson received the Superior Program honor for the Army from the Federal Energy Management Program Awards for post projects, such as the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, brigade and battalion headquarters, the Army's second certified U.S. Green Building Council platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design facility; replacement of older lighting fixtures with more energy-efficient fixtures in 22 buildings; and installation of a computerized weather-tracking irrigation system.
"It's through the passion and creativity of the individuals who are supporting the program," she said. "They're very proud of what they're doing, and they're … finding innovative ways to reach the net zero targets."
Hammack said she doesn't foresee the budget issues affecting the program negatively.
"Net zero is about using less, using less energy, using less water, and when you use less, you don't have the cost associated with it," she said.
"We're entering a new era of fiscal conservatism that worries some people, but you could flip it around and look at it as an opportunity," she said. "It's an opportunity to try new things and reevaluate the way we do things."
Hammack said she always enjoys her visits to Fort Carson.
"I'm always amazed at the talent and the passion for protecting this country," she said. "It always amazes me that the Army is made up of volunteers, volunteers who volunteered to lay down (their) lives."