SEOUL — From overflowing garbage piles to shortages of office supplies, U.S. Army bases throughout South Korea continue to feel the budget crunch created by the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the most important programs affected is the renovation of living quarters for soldiers in South Korea. Although some seven barracks renovation projects were salvaged, all others have been put on hold, said John Nowell, spokesman for the Installation Management Agency, Korea Region Office in Seoul.

“If there are barracks that need renovations, they can’t get it because of budget concerns,” Nowell said. “But we did get a break on seven of those barracks.”

Vehicle maintenance is also affected.

“Nontactical vehicles that go down for repair will have to wait for funding in order to buy repair parts,” he said. “If we don’t have the repair part in stock, then they’ll have to wait until the repair part can be purchased.”

But, Nowell added, “We’re expecting approval of funding to come. We’re just going to tighten our belts a bit.”

Worldwide, the Installation Management Agency had reported a $2 billion shortfall in base funding. In documents obtained earlier this year by Stars and Stripes and verified by the command, 13 programs were targeted for worldwide cuts including an immediate hiring freeze, firing all temporary employees, weakening environmental standards and reducing contract support for force protection. More than half of that figure was directly attributed to funding the wars, officials said.

For the Army in southeastern South Korea, tight money means changes to public works, transportation and temporary duty travel, said Area IV spokesman Kevin Jackson.

“The Department of Public Works is responding to emergency work orders and mission-critical requirements only, until additional funding becomes available. Routine maintenance and upgrades will have to remain on the back burner for the time being,” he said. Nontactical vehicles are restricted to a 100-mile radius to cut down on gas and mileage. Shuttle bus services have been spared, though.

But recreational programs, including bus day trips, have been canceled.

“MWR has also stopped all inspections, assistance visits, conferences, training and all temporary duty requiring appropriated funds for TDY and overtime,” Jackson said.

“Although troublesome and somewhat frustrating at this point in time, I see the funding challenges as short-lived and expect that we’ll be back to normal operations in a few months,” said Col. Donald J. Hendrix, Area IV commander.

“I’d ask that our constituents be patient as we work through this. We’re all interested in ensuring that our deployed warfighters get what they need when they need it.”

Camp Humphreys has also cut spending on office supplies and TDY travel, said Area III spokeswoman Susan Barkley. “There are some hiring things that have been kind of pushed back,” she said.

Last month, garbage started piling up near restaurants, offices and residences throughout Yongsan Garrison, the headquarters base in Seoul. The military’s “landfill,” the place where the trash and recyclables are separated, was full and there was no money to have it emptied, according to Area II commander Col. Timothy McNulty.

Area II also ran out of money to help with local moves. Funds for a federal tuition assistance program also dried up, according to military leaders here.

By the second week in March, McNulty freed up enough money to start regular garbage pickup again. He also said during a March 9 interview that he was planning to have enough money to support youth sports leagues and summer jobs for teens.

But he cautioned servicemembers and their families to be ready for bad news. “As of March 9, we can still provide services,” McNulty said. “But things [can] change.”

No cuts for Okinawa Marines

At Marine Corps bases in Okinawa, officials say no budget cuts have been enacted. But they face a different problem. Because thousands from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit spent months in Iraq, base services have lost a significant part of their customer base.

That, in turn, resulted in reduced hours. Fewer people at gyms, for example, meant less need for staff to run the place.

“We’ve felt it primarily in the northern camps,” Ben Erichsen, chief marketing officer for Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

“Fewer people are using the clubs, the gym. And so what we’ve done is keep the core primary services, but change the operating hours.

“We haven’t laid anyone off. We have been able to preserve our services. For the most part, the families are still here and life goes on.”

David Allen, Franklin Fisher and Teri Weaver contributed to this report.

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