WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 27, 2015) – Another round of base realignment and closure was called for by the Army’s top installation management officer as a way to rid the service of excess infrastructure and modernize facilities.
The Army has drawn down the active-duty force by 80,000 Soldiers already, and expects to have an active-duty end strength of 490,000 Soldiers by the end of 2015. In fiscal 2016, the Army will continue that drawdown, and expects to reduce by an additional 15,000 Soldiers. By the end of FY 2016, the Army will have reduced itself from a wartime high of 570,000 to just 475,000 – a reduction of 95,000 Soldiers.
That loss of Soldiers means there will be unused infrastructure in the Army – an infrastructure that will be empty, but will remain costly to maintain. Right now, the Army estimates an 18 percent excess in infrastructure, and that percentage will continue to grow as more Soldiers leave the Army, said Lt. Gen. David D. Halverson, commander of Army Installation Management Command and assistant chief of staff for installation management.
The general, joining in with virtually all senior Army leaders, said the service needs another round of base realignment and closure. He spoke, April 21, during an Association of the U.S. Army Institute of Land Warfare breakfast.
“The Army needs to right-size its infrastructure to ensure that our dollars buy us what we need,” Halverson said.
What the Army needs, Halverson said, is to reduce excess infrastructure so that it may instead spend those funds on modernizing the infrastructure it does need.
“In time, just putting off the health of your installations is degrading, and that’s a fine balance,” he said. “You can do it for one year, you can do it for two years, but overall, you will not be able to modernize the capability that we need and so those are the decisions we have to look at now.”
COST OF POWER
Halverson said that while the Army is making headway in cutting electricity and water costs – which presently run $1.6 billion Army-wide – it is still “a fixed cost that doesn’t go anywhere but up … and it’s still very concerning.”
Through efforts with the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, Halverson said, the Army has been forming more non-acquisition-based partnerships with industry as a way to reduce power costs.
“Those partnerships are amazing,” he said, citing a recent energy partnership that started recently on Fort Benning, Georgia. “The Army is leading the way with new energies and with our approaches to buying contracts to use other people’s money to sustain and get better mission assurance of our energy and our water on posts – that’s what we need to do for 2025.”
Another initiative Halverson cited was a new desalination plant now on Fort Bliss, Texas, which allows the Army to make its own water at a cheaper price. The reverse-osmosis plant desalinates groundwater for use by El Paso and the installation. Presently, it is the largest non-seawater desalination plant in the world.
Additionally, Fort Bliss expects to place in operation by the end of the year, a 20-megawatt solar farm consisting of 94,000 photovoltaic panels. The $120 million project will make it the largest of its type within the U.S. military.
“We have to decide what to relocate or tear down to decrease our costs on posts,” he said.