ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, April 4, 2016) -- "Every lieutenant colonel or colonel who's commanding a garrison and every director of Public Works -- who spends most of the garrison's budget -- should be able to define and describe the risk associated to readiness" from the standpoint of infrastructure issues, said James B. Balocki.

Balocki, chief executive officer, U.S. Army Reserve Command, spoke, March 31, at a Hot Topics forum on Army Installation Management.

Risk could be anything from excess or unusable infrastructure to the need to build or rebuild new infrastructure, he explained.

COMMUNICATIONS AT ALL LEVELS

For instance, risk could be explained to the chief of staff of the Army in terms of cost to readiness, he said. If cost savings could be represented as building five brigade combat team rotations or retaining another brigade combat team, those would be terms which Army leaders would understand.

And, not just Army leaders, but the American public as well, Balocki added.

3-DIMENSIONS

Balocki said he thinks of risk as three dimensional: financial risk; reputational risk -- as in risk to the Army's reputation; and operational risk, meaning risk related to prosecuting the mission.

"We've got to sit down with the operators of the Army at every discussion where we talk about risk to our infrastructure and let them help us tell the story," he said.

Also, "we've got to sit down with our communities because there's another dimension of risk," he added, "because if we're not embedded with the community, we fail to communicate with the American public."

CALCULATED RISKS

Brig. Gen. Michael A. Stone, assistant adjutant general for Installations, Michigan Army National Guard, who also spoke at the forum, said that the Guard and Reserve have more latitude on taking calculated risks with infrastructure.

The active component's infrastructure in the United States is more tightly controlled by Congress.

Good chief executives don't take unnecessary risks. "We never gamble. We come with a corporate culture, said Stone, who is a former corporate attorney. "We are allowed to take calculated risks and we try lots of things."

He added that from his perspective in Michigan, they've had a number of both successes as well as failures and as a result have a lot of lessons learned.

LOCAL ENGAGEMENTS

The Guard meets regularly with the Michigan legislature, and that results in a lot of benefits to infrastructure, Stone said.

"We bring our chief engineer to every hearing where we talk about armories," he said. The Guard even takes members of the legislature "to our worst armories, and that influences them in the 50-percent state match that goes into maintaining those armories.

"Because of that we've seen a 1,100-percent increase in state funding to support armories and to buy good used buildings … and renovate them to new armories," he continued.

DIVESTMENTS

The Michigan government, along with the Guard and Reserve, communicate regularly about issues involving infrastructure divestment, Stone said.

As a result of this close working relationship, a lot of good things happen, he said.

For instance, when the Navy built its operations center, it subsequently divested two armories. "We looked at their armories, which were in much better shape than any of ours so we now share them with Navy," Stone said.

The Guard is now divesting three of its armories and discussions are happening with the Army Reserve, because as they consolidate, they "could potentially acquire one of our armories."

That would be a win for everyone, he added, because Soldiers in the Reserve won't have to commute hundreds of miles away to a new center.

Also, the community is happy that the Army presence will still be there, he said.

VERY, VERY OLD DIVESTMENT

Balocki said he calls this example of infrastructure risk his "Panama Canal story."

In 1914, the Panama Canal was first opened to shipping. The following year, a giant pavilion was erected in San Francisco, to celebrate its opening, he said.

Eventually, when all the hoopla died down, the pavilion was disassembled and moved by rail to Fort Hunter-Liggett, California, where it was reassembled and repurposed as a horse stable, since Soldiers rode horses at that time, he said.

Today it serves as a fire and emergency services center and a replacement is in this year's president's budget. Meanwhile, the risk to Army infrastructure continues to grow, he concluded.