WASHINGTON (March 9, 2015) – The assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment was on Capitol Hill March 3 to discuss the Army’s 2016 military construction budget and explain the need for base realignment and closure.
“We need a round of base closure and realignment [BRAC] in 2017,” said Katherine Hammack in testimony before the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness. “Without a BRAC and the realized cost-savings, the only alternative is to make up for shortages in base funding by increasing risk in readiness.”
Hammack told the committee that the Army believes it can meet the primary missions of the Defense Strategic Guidance of today, but the future has become “tenuous,” because fiscal challenges brought on by the Budget Control Act strain “our ability to bring into balance readiness, modernization and end strength.”
“Even as demand for Army forces is growing, budget cuts are forcing us to reduce end strength and base support to dangerously low levels,” she said. “We face a mismatch between requirements and resources.”
The Army’s military construction request was $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2016 which is a 26-percent increase from FY15, but a 33-percent reduction from FY14 and a 55-percent reduction from FY13, she said.
“As force structures decline, we must right-size the supporting infrastructure and achieve a balance between the cost of sustaining infrastructure and Army readiness,” she said. “Degraded readiness makes it more difficult for us to provide for the common defense… the BCA [base closure act] increases risk for sending insufficiently trained and underequipped Soldiers into harm’s way and that is not a risk our nation should accept.”
Hammack said the Army had conducted a facility capacity analysis based on its 2013 audited real property data and concluded that excess facility capacity will be at 18 percent when the active Army cuts down to 490,000 Soldiers by the end of 2015.
Just two weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Karen Dyson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army (financial management and comptroller), said by the end of FY16, the active force would move to 475,000 Soldiers.
“As we shrink further, more excess capacity is created,” said Hammack, adding that the impact of sequestration in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 created an increasing number of failing facilities and infrastructure.
“Right now 7 percent of the Army’s facilities are in failing condition, yet we still have operating units in them,” she said. “Twenty-four percent of Army facilities are in poor condition and the number of failing or poor increases every year.
Hammack told the committee members that sustainment is the lowest cost method of maintaining a building. If a structure is not sustained properly due to lack of investment, then it falls into restoration and modernization… “Instead of fixing one leak, you have to replace a roof,” she said.
“We saw a 9 percent increase in requirements for restoration and modernization directly due to impacts of underfunding in ’13 and ’14 due to sequestration,” she said. Buildings which are not maintained adequately, now due to constrained funding, may need to be replaced in the future at a much higher cost, she explained. “So we’re increasing the cost for future generations due to sequestration right now.”