By Mrs. Sheila C Gideon (SMDCARSTRAT)September 23, 2013
U.S. ARMY KWAJALEIN ATOLL, Republic of the Marshall Islands -- Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army (installations, energy and environment) visited U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll Sept. 12-13.
She was accompanied by Col. Timothy Faulkner, Installation Management Command-Pacific deputy director. While here, Hammack toured various infrastructures on both Kwajalein and Roi-Namur, and visited the host nation at Enniburr Island.
There were multiple purposes to her visit. One of the primary reasons was the upcoming change of management to IMCOM taking place Oct. 1 here at USAKA.
"Sometimes, at a time of transition, it's a good time to take a look at what was done before and why, and what the plans are for the future, and how," Hammack commented. "That was information I wanted to get while I was here."
She wanted to better understand the mission at USAKA and to take a look at the facilities, infrastructure, energy, environmental challenges and get an idea of the responsibility IMCOM is going to be taking over.
While here, Hammack tried to get an idea of what USAKA's needs are. This is especially important because the last 10-12 years have seen budgets increasing; now they're decreasing.
"We have to focus on the critical," she explained. "That's part of my role -- to help put together the budgets and defend the budgets to Congress and the president. I really need to know what we need, why we need it, and where we need it, so I'm able to represent the needs of the entire installation community."
Hammack regards the mission at USAKA to be interesting and important. Sometimes, Hammack said, the focus on the mission is so direct, that some of the installation needs are neglected. At USAKA, that neglect can be seen in some of the infrastructure.
"IMCOM [recognizes] that if we don't support our infrastructure appropriately, it will decay to a point where it's extremely costly to replace," Hammack said.
Part of the mission is to ensure that the Soldiers, support staff and families have adequate places to live and work. IMCOM will bring advantages that come from being managed by a central organization.
"With the Installation Management Command team here, there will be that reach back capability to other assets and other resources throughout the organization to ensure that you're deploying the appropriate technologies and strategies," she said.
When Hammack tours installations, she looks for consistency. If she sees the same challenges at multiple locations, that tells her there's a policy or strategy that is flawed. One consistency she said she has seen is poor construction from the 1970-90s.
In that time period, there was a low cost to produce electricity, and air conditioning meant you did not have to build infrastructure to be as well insulated. This led to the construction of flimsy buildings, which on Kwajalein can be seen in the "New Housing" area of homes that are now mostly condemned. Looking at buildings that were built in the 1950s, you find better construction, as can be seen in the "Old Housing" area of homes. "That was really evidenced here," Hammack said. "Some of the older buildings are the most durable and some of the newer buildings -- housing was a case in point -- are the least durable."
The challenge for the future, Hammack said, is the timing of the management transition. "If this was done five years ago … when our budgets were in a different environment, we would have been able to apply more funds." The Army is getting smaller and funding is being reduced. "We're going to have to get creative and figure out how to solve some of these problems ourselves." One of those solutions includes the continuation of the Net Zero Energy Program at USAKA.
Hammack established the Army's Net Zero Program and 17 installations were identified to achieve Net Zero status by 2020; USAKA was chosen in 2011 as one of those installations.
"The whole Net Zero program is focused on resilience," Hammack said. The Net Zero Program from an energy aspect looks at how USAKA can become more resilient through a diversity of power sources, water sources, water efficiency and waste management. This was discussed at length with Jamie Heidle, USAKA Department of Public Works Director. Future energy projects include solar and wind plans. There was also an energy saving performance contract signed recently. "That's where you hire a contractor and they install energy and water efficiency strategies, and you pay them out of the savings," Hammack explained. If the strategies they install don't operate or show savings, they don't get paid. "It's holding someone else accountable, and working with the private sector to get the best technology employed."
Now that Hammack and Faulkner have gathered information about USAKA's critical needs, Faulkner will present the requirements to IMCOM. IMCOM then represents the needs to the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, along with National Guard, Reserve and Army Materiel Command requirements. Any requests will then cross Hammack's desk for approval before funding is granted.