Garrison commanders looking for savings through consolidation, cuts
October 1, 2011
VILSECK, Germany — When teenager Fina Tela needs books or DVDs to occupy her 3-year-old sister, Alice, she doesn’t have to travel far, as the Rose Barracks library is right across the street from her family’s home.
It’s a convenience that could soon disappear.
Anticipating budget losses, garrison commanders in Grafenwöhr and elsewhere are looking for savings through consolidation or cuts to local services.
Bigger funding cuts loom as the Army, citing cost overruns and ballooning installation expenses, looks to cut $2.5 billion annually from garrisons by fiscal 2014.
On Monday, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, which includes Rose Barracks, will hold the first of two town hall meetings to present recommended changes to residents.
Libraries — the post has two — are an expected topic of discussion.
“Everything is on the table,” commander Col. Avanulas Smiley said in a recent interview.
Signs of cutting back are visible elsewhere.
Stuttgart garrison commander Col. Carl Bird told the audience at an August town hall meeting that he expects budget cuts to affect programs and events.
“You’re not going to make everybody happy,” Bird told the audience.
“There’s going to be events that get cut, and somebody’s going to say, ‘I really enjoyed that event, and it’s getting cut.’ Well, it’s just a fact of life. It’s reality.”
Garrison commanders have yet to learn the depth of cuts they’ll face in fiscal 2012, which began Saturday.
Officials at Installation Management Command Europe have encouraged them to begin looking for savings in expenses like utilities, transportation, recreation and food services, IMCOM−Europe spokesman Troy Darr said.
Meanwhile, the Army is planning cuts beyond fiscal 2012. In a June memo, Secretary of the Army John McHugh asked his assistant secretary of installations, energy and environment to outline a plan that would slash $2.5 billion per year in “redundant and marginally beneficial” programs in IMCOM budgets by the end of fiscal 2014.
Total installation costs jumped from $9 billion to $15 billion over the past seven years, according to the memo, while the last five years have seen $1.2 billion in cost overruns by IMCOM and the Army National Guard.
McHugh writes that the Army Family Covenant, the service’s 2007 pledge to provide families amenities such as health care, housing and recreation, could still be met at lower costs.
In Grafenwöhr, garrison officials have been scrutinizing services for weeks, Smiley said. Any positions cut would be handled through attrition rather than layoffs, a garrison spokesman said.
Some cuts could mean more travel between the main post and Rose Barracks.
The garrison shortened the trip to a 20-minute drive by opening a tank trail to private vehicles in May, yet some residents don’t have cars and must wait for shuttles.
Tela, 19, a Rose Barracks resident, said that if the library near her were to close, she and her sister could catch a free bus to the main post library, a trip that takes 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the route.
“But what can you do about it?” she said. “Either way, we’ll take her to the library.”