WASHINGTON -- Installations, including the buildings, utilities, security, and training areas, must modernize, be more efficient and better prepare Soldiers for combat, said the commander of Installation Management Command.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl spoke during a recent Association of the U.S. Army forum on installation management. The general said that as manpower continues to expand and as the importance of home-station training increases, the quality of the training areas becomes more and more important.

With risks to the power grid, water supply and other utilities increasing due to such things as cyber attacks as well as natural disasters, it is vital that each installation be self-sustainable for at least 14 days, Dahl said. That self-sustainability includes, among other things, the ability to generate their own electricity, draw water and natural gas from independent sources, without depending on the public-sector.

Some installations have met or exceed this goal, he said, and others are working to do so.

CONTRACT REFORM

One of the many ways IMCOM supports Army readiness and reform is by managing thousands of contracts worth over $4 billion a year, Dahl said.

In an effort to ensure the Army gets the most of every contracting dollar, the secretary approved adding a Tier II senior executive service acquisition executive to the IMCOM headquarters team, he said. Tier II means the SES is equivalent in rank to a major general.

"This seasoned technical expert will apply leadership to analyze current policies, practices and procedures to identify areas where reform can create efficiencies and reduce costs," he said. "Our intent is to reduce contracting costs in the first year, and more as we gain momentum and reforms are fully realized."

QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES

Dahl added that the effectiveness of delivering services at installations also has a direct bearing on recruiting and retention.

Army-wide, about 33 percent of facilities are in poor or failing condition, he said. "Soldiers deserve better."

Richard G. Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said he realizes that a third of all facilities received a failing grade.

However, he said the Army is not currently ready to ask Congress for another round of Base Realignment and Closure.

Lawmakers have given the Army some authority to demolish excess or failing structures, he said. Also, the Army is looking for ways to consolidate activities so buildings have multi-purpose uses.

There are other small quality of life changes that will benefit Soldiers and Families, he said. For instance, there are often long lines of vehicles at the gates during rush hour. The Army is looking to speed that using facial recognition technology instead of a gate guard checking a common access card or waiting for a machine to scan the CAC.

There have also been some complaints about a variety of issues relating to joint bases, he said. Most issues can be resolved amicably through better communication --- and they have been. Overall, joint bases have realized projected efficiencies and savings, he added.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham, assistant chief of staff for Installation Management, said that installations will soon see efficiencies from such things as sensors that can detect when something needs to be repaired or dial up or down the optimal temperature for buildings.

Big data analytics, robots and artificial intelligence will also become the norm at installations as the Army looks for ways to leverage existing technologies that are rapidly emerging in the marketplace.

She noted that the Army has a whopping 156 installations around the world that she manages, including those for the Guard and Reserve.

Public-private partnerships have proliferated in recent years on most of those installations, she said, to the benefit of the Army, Soldiers and Families, the private sector and local communities.

For instance, the Army has saved $13.6 billion through the Residential Communities Initiative since the program started in December 1999. As an example, she said a lot of construction has occurred at Fort Meade, Maryland, using the RCI model. That has helped get many Soldiers and Families settled in near their work, as the installation expands with new organizations being stood up.