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Transformation hits Army infrastructure

Army News Service

Release Date: 10/08/2003

By Beau Whittington

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 8, 2003) -- "You cannot transform the Army without transforming infrastructure," Ray Dubois told a standing-room-only forum Oct. 6.

As one of the guest speakers at the Association of the United States Army forum, the deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment stressed that as the Army's global mission evolves, its infrastructure must change to support it.

The Installation Management Agency, which celebrates its first birthday this month, is a vital part of the evolution, Mario Fiori told the forum.

"Over the past year we've shown the agency can quickly respond to the needs of deployed and mobilized units," the assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment said.

Officials spent the command's first year designing standards for what they believe facilities should be. Now, they are working toward those goals. But, Fiori warned there is no instant fix.

"We say one Army, we should look like one Army," he said. "We have to eliminate the have-nots."

Working in tandem with the agency is the next round of base realignments and closures designed to maximize warfighting capabilities.

"We need to see deployed forces have what they need to meet a worldwide threat," Dubois said.

Achieving that need requires a global footprint. Dubois expects planners will have a better picture of the footprint by the end of the year when the services make their realignment recommendations to the Defense Department.

This will be the second round of proposals by the services. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected first-round proposals, "reminding commanders the force belongs to the president, not to them," Dubois said.

The key difference in this round is a higher level of command involvement which will consider joint operations at the beginning of the process, instead of the end. Plans will be submitted to joint cross-service groups in seven areas. This will reduce the services' ability to make recommendations protecting their turf, Dubois said.

To help the services make tough choices, Defense has established a fund called the BRAC wedge. These funds will be used to protect the services from having to pay up-front dollars for the changes.

"This is our last chance as a generation," Dubois said. "We must get it right."

"The goal is to get the Army out of non-core functions," said Bill Armbruster, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for privatization and partnerships.

Armbruster described the Residential Communities Initiative as one way to do that.

The initiative is the Army's plan to privatize on-post housing. Under the plan, the Army will transfer ownership and management responsibilities to private companies. Officials say the process allows the Army to leverage assets as private sector capital to fund up-front construction.

"It would take $6 billion to refurbish current housing facilities to standards," Armbuster said. "[This initiative] will save a lot of those dollars."

Approximately 70 percent of the Army's housing inventory needs renovation or replacement. Congressional funding levels for traditional military construction have been unable to keep pace with maintenance needs. Under normal procedures, officials estimate it would take 30 years to catch up.

To date, 26 projects have turned over some 73,000 housing units, Armbruster said. The deputy estimated the initiative will be completed by 2007.

"We cannot do this by conventional means," he said. "We must find creative partners."

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