Shrinking construction budget supports key projects
March 2, 2012
By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 2, 2012) -- The Army's $3.6 billion request for construction, family housing and base realignment in fiscal year 2013 is about a third less than what it received for fiscal year 2012, but the Army's top officer told lawmakers it supports the service's "most critical needs."
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno testified March 1 to the House Appropriations Committee, subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, to discuss the MILCON portion of the Army's fiscal year 2013 budget request.
Stateside, the largest MILCON request is $192 million for barracks at West Point to house growing cadet numbers there. The last barracks built at the school was in 1965, Odierno said. He explained that new barracks will better support the 18 percent of cadets who are now female at the school.
The request also includes $85 million for expansion at Arlington National Cemetery, $22 million for a digital multipurpose training range at Fort Stewart, Ga., $39 million for a vehicle maintenance shop at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and $91 million for a waste water treatment plant at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The service asked for no MILCON funding next year for overseas contingency operations, such as in Afghanistan. Odierno said the infrastructure built in Afghanistan is already "quite robust" and said he believes it could support the smaller footprint there that will result from drawdowns in that country. He told lawmakers that U.S. Central Command has not asked for MILCON money.
The reduction in MILCON funding has also caused the deferral of some projects across the Army, Odierno said.
"These reductions, both domestically and overseas, have caused financially prudent project deferrals," he said, "but despite these reductions, we continue to put a heavy emphasis on funding critical infrastructure, sustainment, restoration and modernization of our failing facilities."
About $186 million requested for fiscal year 2013 would be to complete a final remaining obligation under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure legislation, Odierno said.
"As we did this budget, we did not assume a future BRAC with the budget submission, however we fully support the need for a future BRAC," he said.
The Base Realignment and Closure process is used by the Department of Defense to shutter installations and realign missions, so it can better control its infrastructure to meet its mission.
The last round of BRAC, in 2005, gave the Army a one-time savings of $4.8 billion and a net annual savings of $1 billion, Odierno told Congress.
The general also told Congress that if another BRAC round happens, the Army will help establish and recommend criteria as the BRAC commission looks to conduct the process.
"We do have an opportunity to shape this as we move forward and we will work very closely with the commission and then with Congress as we do this," he said.
Congress must approve another round of BRAC before it could take place.
By end of fiscal year 2017, the Army will decrease its end strength in from 570,000 to 490,000 Soldiers. In the National Guard, end strength will reduce from 358,000 to 353,000. The Army Reserve will also be reduced.
Even with those reductions -- about 80,000 in the active component -- the Army will be able to conduct its mission, Odierno said.
"We can meet two war requirements," Odierno said. "The issue becomes if we have to do sustained operations like in Iraq and Afghanistan."
With the reduced Army, the general told Congress, it would be a problem for the Army to sustain a conflict over four years. However, he said, even with the reductions, the Army's combat capability remains credible.
Lawmakers who were part of the "super committee" last year were looking to find $1.2 trillion in savings within the budget, and were unable to reach a compromise. As much as half of that amount could now be cut from the Department of Defense budget through sequestration.
"Sequestration is not in best interest of our national security," Odierno said. "The impact to the Army could be an additional 100,000 in cuts to our end strength on top of the already 80,000 that we're taking now."
Additional cuts, he said, would result in "severe reductions" in the National Guard and Reserve, as well as additional cuts in the active component.
It would "significantly decrease what the Army can do for the joint force," the general said.
Because the Army can't choose where the cuts come from, the general said under sequestration they would come evenly, and "we will have an imbalance within our own readiness and we will be back to having a potentially 'hollow force.' Where, if necessary, we'd have to respond to something, that might not be what we need to respond with, and ultimately cost us American lives."
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