Despite cutbacks, Japan bases weather budget crunch well
July 16, 2006
Several buildings at Camp Zama no longer offer paper towels in the bathrooms, and there’s a plan to possibly cut the fleet of government vehicles in Japan by 20 percent.
But there haven’t been the sweeping job losses and cutbacks that Army officials in Japan feared in light of an Armywide budget crunch a few weeks ago, thanks to a last-minute infusion of money from Congress and Japan’s government-supplied labor.
“We’re fortunate that a large percentage of our civilian workforce are actually employees of the Japanese government,” said Sgt. 1st Class N. Maxfield, a spokesman for the Army in Japan.
Japanese Master Labor Contractors and Indirect Hire Agreement employees were not affected by recent funding shortfalls in the U.S. military’s Installation Management Agency, the body that funds Army bases and garrisons.
Still, news from the head of the IMA that money is tight is not falling on deaf ears: Nonessential supplies and travel are still curtailed and building renovation projects might be delayed, officials said. A plan is in place to consolidate official vehicles into the motor pool to reduce redundancies, possibly cutting 20 percent of the fleet, officials said.
The funding cuts are part of what IMA director Brig. Gen. John A. Macdonald has called “some truly daunting funding challenges” due in part to the war on terrorism.
“There is no more money coming to us, so we have to spend less to get through the fiscal year,” Macdonald wrote in a message that went out to IMA personnel last week. “Garrison commanders and staffs still have hard decisions to make and we anticipate a level of austerity for the foreseeable future that is unprecedented in memory.”
Macdonald, who took command of the agency six weeks ago, estimates IMA will fall $500 million short this fiscal year, based on earlier budget projections that cover the cost of managing 116 installations worldwide.
Attributed in large part to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the predicament hasn’t gone unnoticed in Congress.
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., has asked for more money but the administration’s budget office is looking to save where it can.
“So now the Army is trying to pinch pennies by closing libraries, reducing trash pick-up, closing dining facilities and reducing support for vital training activities,” Skelton said on the House floor last week. “This is not the way to reward the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers and their families.”
In Japan, bases haven’t closed facilities or laid off workers, but soldiers have had to curtail nonessential travel and supply purchases.
An emergency supplemental funding bill that passed Congress this month eased the pressure to some degree. Army officials in Japan had braced for the worst a few weeks ago.
“We were facing significant cutbacks,” Maxfield said. “However, funding came through and base operations were relatively unaffected. It’s had a minimal impact on us. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is there are no paper towels in some buildings.”