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GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. Army garrison commanders from all over Europe are comparing cost-cutting strategies at a meeting in Heidelberg this week.

Army installations in Europe have been cutting services in recent weeks because of a budget crunch due to the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Grafenwöhr, for example, vehicle access to the base after 9 p.m. will be restricted to one out of five gates starting next month — a measure officials say is focused on both cost-cutting and force protection.

Another cost-cutting measure at the garrison was outlined last week by Dwane Watsek, director of the Grafenwöhr Directorate of Public Works, at a town hall meeting at Vilseck.

Watsek said budget cutbacks meant a contract for grass-cutting around on-post housing areas will end Sept. 15. Contracts for cutting other grass on post already have been canceled and DPW staff members are cutting the grass, he said.

“After that (Sept. 15) residents are expected to cut their own grass. Lawn mowers will be provided from the self-help store,” he said. The lawn mowers are provided cost-free.

In off-post build-to-lease housing areas the grass will continue to be cut by a contractor because the service was part of the lease agreement, Watsek said.

U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr public affairs officials declined to talk about other cost-cutting measures, stating that things might change after the garrison commanders’ meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.

Chuck Gordon, a spokesman for the Grafenwöhr-based Joint Multinational Training Command, said the cash crunch will not affect training.

Installation Management Agency-Europe public affairs officer Jeff Young said budget issues are always an important item on the agenda when garrison commanders meet but that they have become increasingly important in recent years.

“[The meeting] is an opportunity for garrison commanders to get a better idea of the funding situation at Department of Army level and also at IMA generally and garrisons here in Europe specifically.

“What they get is better information about the status of the budget, some thoughts about what the budget may offer in the next fiscal year and the impacts of those lower-than- usual budgets on the individual garrisons,” he said.

Garrison commanders will have the chance to compare ways individual garrisons are saving money while providing vital services to soldiers and their families, Young said.

“It’s very easy in a period of austere budgets for people to believe it’s all gloom and doom. I’m not going to tell you things are rosy as regards the amount of money we have, but the exciting thing is watching the creativity and leadership the commanders can exercise,” he said.

Most of the people advising garrison commanders are long-term federal employees who have experienced budget cuts, Young said.

“They are anything but blasé about short funding, but they have extraordinary experience weathering seasonal storms involving Army money,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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