By Joan VaseyAugust 24, 2016
Fort Huachuca, Arizona--Fort Huachuca's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) is facing more than $500,000 in budget cuts to recreation programs starting Oct. 1.
Family and Recreation program budgets across the Army will be reduced by $105 million in the 2017 fiscal year, according to Installation Management Command (IMCOM) leadership. This represents a 23 percent cut from this year's funding level and is expected to drain more than $500,000 from Fort Huachuca programs, said Fort Huachuca FMWR Director Dennis Maruska.
"As everyone knows, the Army has moved into a very fiscally constrained environment," he stated. "That means that every major command will take some kind of cut. The things that we were able to do in the past, we will not be able to do in the future because we just won't have the money."
Congress began to appropriate funds for FMWR programs related to readiness in 1989, money that supports fitness and community centers, and libraries. In recent months, Fort Huachuca leaders have been evaluating FMWR programs to determine which were most affordable and popular, Maruska said.
"It's basically a decision that's been made on the senior Army level, the senior levels of IMCOM, to use funds that typically have been funding FMWR programs to use them to pay for other, more important priorities," said Maruska.
"The goal is to disperse budget cuts across all programs in order to preserve as many programs and services on post as possible.
"We had to make some hard decisions," he said. "We understand clearly it affects a number of people.
"Up to this point, some recreation programs have been subsidized. This is no longer possible and passing along the costs associated with these services is prohibitive, especially within Outdoor Recreation," Maruska explained.
"Outdoor Recreation and the Sportsman's Center will continue all services with the exception of arms rental and ammunition sales, which will end August 28. We understand this change may impact our range customers, but we are committed to maintaining our archery ranges, paintball range and overflow campground. The skeet and trap ranges and the Saturday Range 3 operation will be available for customers who bring their own weapons and ammunition," said William "Dave" Start, chief of Business/Recreation Operations Division, FMWR.
"Until this year, the Outdoor Recreation program has received $136,710 to partially offset the costs associated with this program," Start said. "This funding supported, in part, three positions. Two of these positions primarily focused on the activities provided by the Sportsman's Center.
"The tasks required of this facility to support activities associated with the operation of the arms room are complex. Routine inventories, documentation of these inventories, cleaning, maintaining and repairing heavily used weapons, procuring, counting and maintaining resale inventory of ammunition, requirements to maintain separate key control and armorer responsibilities and documenting access logs. All of this is background to the direct service of providing weapons rental and ammunition sales. It is expensive to do correctly, and challenging to keep staff with the skills and ability to do it properly.
"When one adds up the cost of this effort, it exceeds $100,000 when we look at costs associated with FY2015. As we enter FY2017, our $136,710 is reduced to zero. Without this support, to keep all things the same, we would need to pass along the full cost of providing this service to the end user. In effect, this would be doubling or tripling the fees charged, increasing the sales price to a non-competitive level causing more frustration with our customers," Start explained.
"We will host an ammunition sale this weekend, August 27 and 28, to eliminate supplies prior to the arms room closure," he added.
"Eliminating the Sportsman's Center arms room is the only major area where cuts will occur," he stated. "Over the past few years we have been gradually increasing fees in preparation for a large budget cut, so there is no need right now for Draconian measures. We are trying to minimize cost impacts to as many programs as we can."
However, more cuts may come later. Current recreation equipment is useable for another year or two but there is no money to replace items that break or wear out. If the budget does not turn around and Fort Huachuca does not get the $500,000 it needs to maintain its present annual level of operations within that timeframe, this could change and Fort Huachuca could see a future reduction to current programs.
In order to weather the budget shortfall, the Outdoor Recreation Program focus is shifting.
"Our intent at Fort Huachuca is to pivot to activities that will reach Soldiers in different ways. Warrior Adventure Quest, with an emphasis on challenge course/teamwork towers; continuing with paintball and archery participation; and horseback and mountain bike activities are all areas we will emphasize," Start said.
"We hope and depend on our customers to support FMWR's recreation programs and use them," Start said. "Inactivity will show which programs are not important to customers and money losers could go away if additional cuts are needed."
"We want to assure our customers that FMWR is dedicated to sustaining those recreation programs that maintain a strong customer base and remain financially viable. Several activities within the Outdoor Recreation Program, including Buffalo Corral, Apache Flats RV Park and MWR Rents, will continue to support your leisure needs with only normal, yearly cost increases. We will continue to prioritize and fine tune the programs we provide to ensure we are focusing on our customers' needs while still remaining financially viable," Maruska said.
One recent positive change FMWR has made is the move of Murr Community Center to the former Yardley Dining Facility. The Yardley Community Center celebrates its public grand opening noon-3 p.m. Sept. 2.
"This move puts the community center right in the middle of the student area making it more accessible to the Soldiers. We anticipate its use will greatly increase," Start said.
"No FMWR professional wants to see a program shut down," Maruska added. "With significant funding changes, hard decisions must be made, and there are winners and losers in this reality. Unfortunately, the Sportsman's Center arms room has been determined to be the one that will go while we make every effort to keep other, more highly utilized activities available," Maruska added.