ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army has launched a $250 million project to “make life more pleasant” in the short term for 20,000 enlisted soldiers living in stateside barracks scheduled for renovations years from now.

In his first press conference with Pentagon reporters Wednesday, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said he decided in late January to find enough money in the 2006 budget to perform repairs on 177 barracks that have been identified as “red,” or substandard, by the Army’s Installation Management Agency.

The Army already has a long-range $10 billion Barracks Modernization Program that will pair all junior enlisted soldiers in two-bedroom modules with a shared bathroom in between, which the Army calls a “1+1” standard.

However, the modernization program will not be complete until 2009.

“In the meantime, we have some facilities that need attention,” said George Lloyd, a strategic planner for Unaccompanied Personnel Housing. “Even though those [barracks] may come down in a few years, there are people living in them now.”

So Harvey, who took his post in November, said he decided to look at the Army’s budget to find some quick-fix dollars.

“When I discovered that, although we have a very aggressive modernization program that will be implemented over the next four years, we still have at this time 20,000 substandard barracks [units] out of 136,000 barracks, we immediately reprogrammed $250 million,” Harvey said.

In a Thursday telephone interview, Lloyd said he could not immediately identify which bases have barracks that are due for the renovations.

However, none of the facilities are in Europe or the Pacific, he said.

Lloyd said, “The plan is to do the worst [barracks] first,” followed by barracks that are vacant because their occupants are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, or away on long training exercises.

Tackling empty barracks is “less disruptive” to the occupants, Lloyd noted.

If some junior enlisted soldiers have to move out of their quarters and off-post to accommodate the renovations, the Army will temporarily authorize a Basic Allowance for Housing.

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