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Army's IMA director says tough fiscal times are ahead

In some offices, Army employees have gotten into the habit of leaving the lights off during the workday to help save money.

That’s not the only example of belt-tightening in Europe – and elsewhere, for that matter. Temporary duty travel has been significantly scaled back, job vacancies are going unfilled and routine maintenance has come under increased scrutiny.

As the director of the Army’s Installation Management Agency put it in a memo this week, the service is working “through some truly daunting funding challenges.” Those challenges, he explained, are due in large part to the global war on terrorism.

Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald made that assessment this week, well after Congress passed an emergency supplemental funding bill.

“There is no more money coming to us, so we have to spend less to get through the fiscal year,” Macdonald wrote in a message that went out to IMA personnel on Wednesday.

“Garrison commanders and staffs still have hard decisions to make,” he continued, “and we anticipate a level of austerity for the foreseeable future that is unprecedented in memory.”

Macdonald, who took command of the agency six weeks ago, estimates IMA will fall $500 million short this fiscal year, based on earlier budget projections that cover the cost of managing 116 installations worldwide.

Attributed in large part to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the predicament hasn’t gone unnoticed in Congress.

According to Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the Army knows there is a problem, and has asked for more money, but the administration’s budget office is looking to save money where it can.

“So now the Army is trying to pinch pennies by closing libraries, reducing trash pick-up, closing dining facilities and reducing support for vital training activities. … This is not the way to reward the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers and their families,” Skelton said on the House floor Wednesday.

Things haven’t gotten that drastic in Europe. Not yet, anyway.

Based on what Jeff Young has seen, some garrisons in Europe have been quite successful at working around these cash challenges. More and more, the IMA-Europe spokesman said, volunteerism is coming into play. He referred to it Thursday as “circling the wagons.”

“You have a choice,” Young said, “you either move forward or you give up, and giving up is not an option.”

As the Army gets deeper into the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, tougher choices may be necessary, officials said.

In his letter this week, Macdonald said the outlook for fiscal 2007 isn’t much better, at least at this juncture. Macdonald noted that it’s imperative for the Army to take a hard look at installation support while bearing in mind that it must provide “a high standard of living for soldiers and family members.”

Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, will “do everything he can to mitigate the human impact of these (spending) constraints,” said Col. Roger King, spokesman for USAREUR, “but at the same time win the global war on terror.”


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