Reducing the Army’s infrastructure footprint would result in more money for training, modernization and personnel said a top Army official.
Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, told lawmakers that declining force structure coupled with fiscal shortfalls are testing the Army’s ability to pay for installations and facilities that need to be shuttered.
Hammack and other service representatives testified March 14 to the House Armed Services subcommittee on Readiness regarding the possibility of future base realignment and closure, or BRAC, rounds.
Drivers for infrastructure reductions, she said, include funding shortfalls resulting from the continuing resolution, sequestration and billions of unfunded dollars relating to the drawdown in Afghanistan; a new National Defense Strategy which mandates a reduced overseas footprint, relying more on partnering with other nations; and improvements in industrial-base design.
The latter point caught the interest of lawmakers, who are already aware of underfunding and manpower reductions within the armed forces.
She explained that over the years, advances in equipment and technology have enabled the production of materiel to be carried out in much smaller physical space. Hammack said that prior to her duties with the Army, she was responsible for consolidating four manufacturing facilities into one.
With scientific and engineering advances “we’ve increased our capability and can reap the rewards of those efficiencies,” said Hammack, who is also a mechanical engineer.
As first step in force structure reduction, the Army published a programmatic environmental assessment, or PEA, as part of the National Environmental Policy Act, she said. That PEA identified 21 installations that could be impacted by force structure reductions.
A PEA analyzes both environmental and socio-economic factors that could impact those 21 installations, she explained. Members of Congress and nearby communities are being listened to in public hearings, she added.
The Army has not yet conducted any capacity analysis to determine the levels of excess infrastructure, however, she said. That would begin with a comprehensive installation inventory once determination is made where force structure changes will occur. She said the study would be “a rigorous analysis (that would) prudently align supporting civilian personnel with reduced force structure and reduced industrial base design.”
Reducing brigade combat team facilities
At least eight brigade combat teams, or BCTs, and possibly more will be inactivated, Hammack said, adding that while the U.S.-based BCT decisions and locations haven’t been made, two of the BCT inactivation decisions have already been announced in Europe and are in the process of being inactivated.
As a matter of policy, the Army, under direction of the president and Defense Department, can shutter overseas infrastructure, but cutting back stateside requires congressional authority in the form of BRAC.
A BCT takes up about 1.4 million square feet of space and costs about $350 million to build in today’s dollars, Hammack told lawmakers, illustrating the savings that could be had with reducing BCT facilities in conjunction with BCT stand-downs.
The Army has already realized savings by consolidating its overseas facilities, she said. From 2001, projecting out to fiscal year 2017, the Army will have reduced its force structure in Europe by more than 45 percent, with a corresponding 51 percent reduction in infrastructure, 58 percent reduction in civilian staffing and 57 percent reduction in base operations.
In Korea, significant declines in Soldiers supported a consolidation of garrisons and resulted in thousands of acres of property returned to the host nation, she said.
The Army used the BRAC 2005 round as a vehicle to meet wartime needs, move Soldiers home from overseas and to maximize military value and capability, she said. That round was a success to the Army and produced reoccurring savings to the Army of more than $1 billion annually.
BRAC 2005 was also successful for the Guard and Reserve, which used the round to consolidate into areas of growing populations where recruiting and demographic needs are greater, she told lawmakers.
Much of today’s infrastructure resulted from rapid buildups during World War II, she said. In 1945 there were 8,267,000 Soldiers and many of the structures where they lived and worked remain today.
Hammack said that during a recent visit to an installation, she found soldiers and civilians were using just 300 of the 800 structures.