WASHINGTON – As the Army cuts the number of Soldiers in its ranks, there will be an excess of infrastructure in place that used to support those Soldiers. Maintaining that extra unused infrastructure could mean other critical Army programs will suffer, said a senior official.
“A future round of base realignment and closure, or BRAC, in the U.S. is essential to identify and reduce excess Army infrastructure, and prudently align our civilian staffing with reduced uniform force structure,” said Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment. She spoke Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies.
“If Army force structure declines but facilities, overhead and civilian staffs remain constant, our ability to invest in equipment, training and maintenance will be reduced,” she said. “The Army fully supports the president’s request for authority from Congress to conduct a BRAC round in 2015.”
The Army expects to cut some 80,000 Soldiers by fiscal year 2017. The force is expected to be reduced to 490,000 Soldiers by then. With those cuts, force structure will also be reduced. Already, in Europe, two brigade combat teams have been cut.
In Europe, Hammack told lawmakers, the Army is reducing force structure by 45 percent, reducing infrastructure by 51 percent, reducing civilian staffing by 58 percent, and reducing base operations costs by 57 percent. She also said the Army is working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to see if there are additional opportunities in Europe for multi-service or joint consolidation.
Stateside, she said, the Army will cut at least eight brigade combat teams, or BCTs, and “maybe more” with continued sequestration.
No decisions have been announced yet about what BCTs will be cut in the U.S. The Army has conducted studies and surveys to make that determination, and underway now is a “total Army analysis,” the results of which are expected before the end of June, that will determine what BCTs will be cut.
Before the announcement of what BCTs will be cut, and from where, the Army has changed its budgeting priorities. Hammack told lawmakers that the Army is not focused on building BCT headquarters or permanent party barracks, for instance, but is instead focused on training ranges, training barracks, and infrastructure improvements.
Hammack also touched on energy security with lawmakers, who were interested in solar facilities at places like Fort Bliss, Texas.
The assistant secretary told senators that the Army’s focus is on improving energy security. Between fiscal year 2011 and 2012, she said, the Army has seen a four-fold increase in power disruptions at bases.
“That means we are required to provide more generation on our bases to continue our missions,” Hammack said.
Renewable energy projects, such as the 20-megawatt solar farm at Fort Bliss, Texas, deemed the largest in the DoD, or the four-megawatt facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., help that process along, she said.
Hammack said the Army continues to look for ways to leverage public/private partnerships, such as what was done at Fort Bliss, to fund renewable energy projects. The Army will depend on the private sector to install and maintain such facilities, and will then buy energy from them at market or lower-than-market price.