OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Having airmen do their laundry with only cold water and asking them to eat meals in the dining hall instead of “to go” are among steps under way at Osan Air Base to offset a budgetary shortfall, officials said.

Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing is faced with a $5.5 million shortfall this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, officials said.

“This is something that goes across the Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Michael E. Shavers, the wing’s chief spokesman. “The budget shortfall is being felt throughout PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) and it’s impacting decisions throughout the Air Force.”

At Yokota Air Base in Japan, 374th Airlift Wing commander Col. Scott Goodwin wrote in a Feb. 7 memorandum to all base personnel that “we must do all we can to cut expenses.” At the time, Yokota was $10 million short in the fiscal year.

The war on terror, utility rate hikes, increased infrastructure costs, other funding limitations and “budget cuts for a number of years” are factors in the money crunch and “have really made this year more of a challenge,” Shavers said.

He said it was too early to say how much the Osan expects to save through the cost-cutting measures.

The wing also has:

Lowered the heat in dorms and other buildings.Cut the number of aerobics classes offered at the base gym.Curbed civilian overtime and other personnel costs.“We’re going to implement these changes as long as the wing continues to operate with a funding deficit,” Shavers said.

The hot water measures vary depending on where base residents live.

In the dorms, engineers shut off the hot water to washing machines in the laundry rooms. But there’s otherwise been no cut in hot water to the dorms, and airmen continue to have normal availability in their rooms.

“It’s not like we’re taking cold showers here,” Shavers said.

In two on-base family housing complexes — Mustang Valley Village and Soraksan Tower — the hot water supply to washing machines cannot be turned off for mechanical reasons.

“We have asked the residents to use cold water when washing laundry because it saves money not having to heat hot water,” said Shavers. “And with today’s detergents, of course, washing in cold is just as effective.”

Dining halls are restricting the use of paper “to-go” products to personnel in uniform. The aim is to get airmen to eat meals in the dining hall “because the only cost is to wash that plate and utensils that can be re-used, as opposed to taking the to-go items that can’t be recycled and that we have to pay for,” he said.

The wing saved $5,000 through the measure in just one month, Shavers said.

In dorms and more than 200 other buildings, temperatures will be somewhat cooler during what’s left of the cold weather season because the boilers and thermostats have been turned down, he said.

The resulting savings in heating fuel and electricity bills are expected to reap the wing “a significant reduction” in heating costs, he said.

At the gym, aerobic classes have been cut from 22 to about 15, a move expected to save the wing about $18,000 a year in wages for instructors, he said.

“It’s going to require small sacrifices by everybody on the base to add up and have an impact on the big problem,” Shavers said.

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