WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 6, 2016) -- A key to building readiness during downward budgetary pressures is to continue making installations more efficient, resourceful and opportunistic, said Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and the Environment.

As keynote speaker at an Installation Management "Hot Topics" forum here, March 31, Hammack reiterated Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley's No. 1 priority: readiness.

"We know we must continue to lean our installations; lean our activities; change our expectations and prioritize our most essential services to ensure the Army remains ready," she said, noting that the Army continues to undergo dramatic changes.

Originally the Army expected to cease its activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead it's changing and shifting as other conflicts and missions have increased worldwide, despite continuing downward budgetary pressures, she said.

With more than 50 percent of the Army budget going into manpower, what follows on are the costs of training and equipping, which are both priorities related to readiness, she said, adding that what drops to the bottom of the pile is installation funding and maintenance of facilities.

"We're trying to figure out how to support Soldiers, Families, civilians and operations without the budgets that they need, with the budgets they get, so every installation has had to prioritize based upon risk and funding the most critical," she continued. "It has given us an opportunity at the headquarters level to re-evaluate our programs and services… which can be merged and consolidated."

Hammack discussed five key areas affecting the installation community:

-- communicating how installations support readiness and where they're taking risks;

-- prioritizing resources while consolidating services and programs

-- continuing to establish creative partnering to leverage core competencies

-- developing a model for installations to 2025 and beyond

-- calling for a Base Realignment & Closure authorization in 2017.

"We have more than 155 installations when you take into account the Guard and Reserve and they each contribute to our total Army and our total force, but they all have different capabilities," she said. "It is essential we communicate with one voice in the education of our colleagues and leaders and better articulate how installation infrastructures and services directly impact readiness and where the risk is being taken and its impact on the operating force."

PRIORITIZING RESOURCES

She said the second key area is in the risk involved to maximize funding for training and operations, which forces the Army to further prioritize its most critical projects and programs while becoming more prudent with investments.

"This doesn't mean we have removed decision-making from senior commanders at the installation level, nor does it mean we cannot adjust during the budget year -- it just means there's less room," Hammack said. "It means that new emerging priorities must come up to the headquarters level so we can try to figure out how to balance to ensure projects are validated by the commands there -- indeed, the command's highest priority and then some can be absorbed dependent upon need, but many are addressed as unfunded."

CREATIVE PARTNERING

In the area of creative partnering, Hammack said that over the last decade, the Army had been divesting itself of services and programs that are better performed by those companies who make their living in those areas such as housing.

"The private sector has invested about $12 billion of private-sector capital in Army housing so Soldiers have a better quality of life and at the same time there is no backlog of maintenance like we're seeing in our commercial buildings," she said.

The Army has also had great success with the privatization of energy, she said, adding the Army needs diversity in power choices and renewable energy. There are presently 14 projects in various stages of the contracting process to provide more than 400 megawatts of renewable energy, representing more than $800 million of investment, which enables the Army to put its limited funds more on readiness.

"We want to continue to explore how we can expand partnerships, strengthen community ties, while benefitting both the Army and our service-providing partners," she said.

BASE CLOSURE AND REALIGNMENT

Hammack called for another round of BRAC, noting the Army spends about $500 million annually on excess or under-used facilities. At a total force of 980,000 Soldiers, the Army has estimated a 21-percent excess in infrastructure.

"We must have authority from Congress to consolidate into our highest-value military bases and divest of low military value or under-utilized facilities," Hammack said. "Today, facilities that are needed to support readiness, to support training exercises, airfields and other priorities are deteriorating because the resources are spent to support installations that could be closed.

Hammack said that $500 million wasted on installations and facilities that aren't needed equates to five training rotations at the National Training Center and the manning of a Stryker brigade of 5,000 Soldiers. It represents readiness, she said.

She anticipates that another BRAC would be primarily focused on the Army and Air Force -- which has some 30-percent excess infrastructure. It would cost $6 billion initially, she estimated, but would save $2 billion annually in the years following.