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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — The 4,000 or so soldiers returning to Baumholder in November after a year in Iraq will be coming back to a post changed by an Armywide budget crunch.

To the naked eye, the changes at this post — the largest collection of combat-arms units outside the U.S. — will not be dramatic in the biggest quality-of-life areas of retail, child care and medical services. Most services will still operate as they did.

The grass will be cut or the snow shoveled.

The garbage will get picked up.

Just below the surface, there are notable changes, most dramatically, fewer people doing more work as General Schedule job vacancies go unfilled.

Yet, the effects of funding cuts in Europe may prove to be far less painful than at stateside bases, where some commands can’t pay utility bills.

In Europe, the situation is especially complex, with war deployments and transformation on top of base expenses that include currency fluctuations and fuel prices up 30 percent since 2003.

But because of these complexities, officials here were already dealing with budget issues that U.S. officials are just now trying to solve, said Russell Hall, head of the Installation Management Agency-Europe.

“We’ve been dealing with (rising) costs, where in CONUS, it hit them this year,” Hall said.

Short of an unforeseeable natural disaster, there should be no big changes, he said.

IMA even has permission from the Department of the Army to keep temporary and term workers, he added.

Some of the changes being implemented:

There is a de facto hiring freeze on filling GS jobs. Bases can’t fill GS vacancies without permission of higher headquarters, depending on the job. Positions that affect life, health, safety and the war on terrorism are top priorities.

All temporary-duty training trips are canceled.

No one can make IMPAC card purchases over $1 without IMA approval.

Earlier this month, Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald, Installation Management Agency director, issued a blunt assessment of budget shortfalls in a statement that ran in some Europe base newsletters.

IMA, which oversees bases in the United States and overseas, is $500 million short.

After looking at projected bills for big-ticket items such as utilities, garbage collection and sewers, the shortfall is projected to be $40 million for IMA-Europe, which operates bases from the Benelux to Italy, Hall said.

Many services, such as on-base retail, will not be affected.

With 98 percent of its budget coming from nonappropriated funds, Army and Air Force Exchange Service growth is directly related to sales, said Judd Anstey, media branch manager at AAFES Dallas headquarters.

AAFES operates base and post exchanges, shoppettes, base franchise restaurants and services such as salons and barbershops.

As long as there’s demand, “there is no indication that AAFES services will be curtailed in the foreseeable future,” Anstey said.

An IMA budget crunch would affect commissaries only indirectly because of interservice support agreements, for things such as cleaning contracts, said Michael Dowling, director of Defense Commissary Agency-Europe.

But if IMA cuts its own services, DECA would still have the right as a subcontractor to continue at present levels, he said.

Because day-care workers are NAF employees working for revenue-generating operations, Child Development Centers are not affected.

Services that are affected may be so only by degrees.

The 1st AD’s welcome home party in November may be different than the same event in 2004.

That remains to be seen because it falls after the beginning of the next fiscal year.

When soldiers return, Army Community Service will be at about 50 percent of its staffing level from the previous year, said Lt. Col. James Larsen, outgoing Garrison Baumholder commander.

That includes staffing for troop re-integration programs, Larsen said.

Otherwise, maintaining quality-of-life on base comes down to replacing money with innovation and monitoring every expense down to lights left on after hours, said Eiko Holzinger, head of the Directorate of Logistics servicing Baumholder’s garrison.

The new Army management initiative is Lean Six Sigma, said Holzinger and other Baumholder officials.

Under Lean Six Sigma — two programs borrowed from corporate giants such as Motorola and Toyota – all employees are charged with thinking of ways to increase efficiency and cut costs.

In the final analysis, the tight budget’s impact on quality-of-life is going to vary from post to post, said Sean Lambur, director of Baumholder’s Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.

“The quality of life is going to depend … on how well staffs work, plan and execute.”

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