Commentary

April 12, 2012

Living within our means…

By Col. Kurt Pinkerton
Fort Irwin Garrison commander

Have you felt the $23.4 million budget shortage over the past seven months?  It has been our goal that necessary changes would have minimal impact on the community.  In February, I wrote an article that discussed the overall budget situation for fiscal year 12 and what it meant to Fort Irwin.  Since last summer we have worked hard at minimizing the reduction of key facilities, identify cost savings, and work with higher headquarters to fund critical services required.  Through great efforts of the staffs at Garrison, NTC headquarters, and Installation Management Command, we have been relatively successful at minimizing the impact, and yet we still require $17.4 million to complete the fiscal year.  Important to note, the financial concerns we have are in the areas of public works and logistic operations, while in the areas of safety, emergency services, and morale, welfare, and recreation we have personnel concerns.

What have the budget reductions impacted and not impacted?  The budget reduction does not impact employee salaries, the repair and upkeep of facilities, or our mandated services within Army Community Services.  What it does impact is our public works daily operations for care and maintenance of the installation, and within the directorate of logistics some of the support requirements necessary to support the installation.

To meet our budget needs, the following adjustments have occurred, or will occur before the end of the fiscal year:

The NTC Express will not continue past its current contract which ends on the evening of May 14, 2012.  I acknowledge the impact this has on the 1 percent of the work force that use this service, but this is not a standard service, and at a cost of $1.5 million a year, it’s something we can no longer afford, so we need to figure out more sustainable options.  There are options for those that used the Express.  You can carpool with friends or join a ride share program.  Many across the Department of Defense carpool; probably the most well known car pooling area is Washington D.C. where thousands car pool every day to the Pentagon.  Another option is joining the Mass Transportation Benefit Program.  See the FAQ sheet on page 19 for information about MTBP, other transportation options and incentives available to our workforce and points of contact.  Finally, we are working closely with San Bernardino County and the City of Barstow to establish a bus service that will pick up at all the standard locations we’ve established over the years, as well as considering pick up from the Silver Lakes area.   While this service is still in negotiation and development, if we can make it work, it will be a long term sustainable solution that will benefit all.

Other areas in which we’ve made cost savings adjustments include reductions in several service contracts that allow us sustain an acceptable level of support in custodial services, bottled water, laundry, fire fighting, weapons registration operations, and Directorate of Emergency Management operations.   We have also reduced our non-tactical vehicles and turned one dining facility back to a Soldier-operated facility.  Finally, we’ve looked at tenant and rotational unit reimbursable expenses and made adjustments to them to better account for their cost sharing requirements.  The total costs saved were about $6.4 million for Fiscal Year 2012 and we’ll realize additional cost savings in Fiscal Year 2013 and beyond based on these adjustments.  In addition to adjusting services as well as a reduction in certain programs, we’ve been very successful at reducing our office building footprint.  You may have noticed that 11 of the Korea-era buildings and 78 modular buildings have been removed from the center of post.  This is a cost savings of millions of dollars in the terms of maintenance, repair, and energy costs we use on these buildings.  We already have the 2013 building reduction plan submitted and will continue to cut excess and wasteful infrastructure.

In the area of family services, we’ve sustained our family programs by making minor adjustments.  We have yet to see the need to shut down any MWR facilities, but acknowledge we’ve made some adjustments; for example moving the Kids on Site location from Memorial Gym to the Child Development Center.  Other cost saving changes include reduced gym and library hours, Leisure Travel and Services now operates Tuesday through Friday, and Reggie’s is closed on Sunday.  These measures are necessary to ensure we work within our budget.  This year we’ve been able to offset some of our costs, but continuous reductions require us to frequently review our services, activities, and programs for possible cost saving measures.  Most of our entertainment facilities, such as Strike Zone, Shockwave, Ingalls Recreation Center, Autocraft shop, Outdoor recreation, operate at a break-even or loss, but through effective cost saving measures, we will continue to keep them open.

As we move forward, this week we will participate in a collaborative conference between IMCOM and FORSCOM to discuss our concerns about Fiscal Year 2012 and to discuss how we can continue to gain economic efficiencies in 2013 and beyond.  Based on the results of this conference, there may be additional cost saving measures executed.  If additional funding is unavailable, some areas we are looking at for further adjustments include refuse operations, environmental programs, barracks operations, custodial services.  Most of the programs are associated with service requirements for the main cantonment area of the installation and should not affect family members, or in most cases our service members.  Like previous adjustments, if additional cuts are necessary, we will do everything possible to minimize the impact and make it as seamless as possible to community.

How can you assist in making the installation more cost efficient?  Whether a family member, Soldier, or civilian working or living on Fort Irwin, you can impact cost savings for the installation.  Being energy conscious can save thousands, if not millions of dollars over the year.  When you depart the office, minimize those systems requiring energy; turn off the lights, adjust the temperature, shut off your computer monitor.  At home, minimize the use of major appliances at peak hours from noon to 7 p.m., and maintain your thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter.  Support the recycling program at home and at work.  Currently, we are achieving about 26 percent of our potential recycling.  If we all focus on proper recycling, raising it another 25 percent could equal a potential income of $500,000 for the installation.  Recycling income is important because it offsets costs of the program and allows us to fund small energy efficiency programs thus saving us more money. It is also used to offset some of our MWR expenses.

Finally, as I always say, if you have a question, or hear a rumor, please participate in our Town Hall Meeting, Facebook Round Up, or our Community Service Council meeting and ask your question so you have the correct answer.




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