IMA-Europe optimistic despite cutbacks
Stars and Stripes May 23, 2004
Less than two years after the Army created the Installation Management Agency to oversee base operations worldwide, the command’s budget is $2.1 billion in the red.
On May 12, Maj. Gen. Anders Aadland, the agency’s director, ordered several immediate cutbacks so the command can continue base support for the next four months. New funding becomes available Oct. 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
“We must reduce expenditures immediately to do our part to get through this challenging year,” Aadland said in his message.
The agency found its budget problems in April during a mid-year review, prompting Aadland to announce cutbacks in several areas, including staffing, training, travel, construction projects and force protection.
Maintaining combat readiness while fighting a multifront war, as the Army restructures forces, has created “extraordinary times for our Army,” Aadland said, adding that bases must not fail the “vital role” supporting Army actions.
According to Lt. Col. Eugene Pawlik, an agency spokesman, the $8 billion annual budget has shortfalls divided into two categories: $899 million in “installation operations and executive agent programs,” and $1.25 billion caused by operational needs in support of the “global war on terrorism.”
While agency officials are tightening budgetary belts worldwide, the senior comptroller in Europe is optimistic about crunching a $30 million shortfall on this year’s $1.5 billion budget for IMA-Europe, without a visible effect on base operations.
“We’re going to have to take prudent measures to get through the end of the fiscal year,” said Steven Pratt, IMA-Europe’s chief of resource management.
That means paying “must fund” bills such as payrolls, utilities and base services, Pratt said.
In August 2003, IMA-Europe received roughly $160 million of the $87 billion in war funds Congress gave the Defense Department, Pratt said. That money must pay bills incurred supporting the war, to include everything from increased force-protection measures to supporting families of deployed troops.
Pratt said he is reviewing several projects deemed “discretionary” which will have to wait until after Oct. 1, when funds from the new fiscal year become available.
Those projects include several force-protection measures, such as fence and checkpoint construction. But normal security operations, such as contract guards at base checkpoints in Europe, will not be affected, he said.
Agency officials also ordered an immediate hiring freeze for jobs not related to the war, Army restructuring or positions undergoing current military-to-civilian conversions. Anyone with a solid job offer on May 12 will be hired, officials said, and the freeze won’t affect promotions or reassignments.
Temporary employees not supporting war efforts will be laid off June 1, the directive said. In Europe, human resources staff identified 600 temporary workers in jeopardy, but whittled that number to 60 jobs that might be cut.
Those jobs, staffed both by U.S. and local national employees, are being reviewed next week, said Mary Griffin-Bales, IMA-Europe’s chief of civilian personnel.
“It may be less than that, or even none,” she said.
While IMA directives canceled summer hiring programs for students in other regions, the program in Europe is funded by the Defense Department through U.S. Army Europe, meaning 2,400 teens will begin work in mid-June as planned, Griffin-Bales said.
Created in October 2002, the Installation Management Agency was designed to address an $18 billion construction backlog and reduce bureaucratic obstacles faced by base commanders. Organized into seven regional offices, the agency took charge of everything from morale programs and family care to construction and public works.
Several projects will be postponed until the fall, including some base renovations, environmental work, and road repairs, said IMA-Europe spokesman Millie Waters.
“Anything not of an immediate nature for safety or health, those are the things we’re looking to be deferred,” Waters said.
The current budget problem is manageable, Pratt said.
It’s not nearly as bad as 1996, when operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina compounded by the drawdown of troops in Europe forced budget reductions that affected everything from cutting the grass to removing trash from post, he said.
“We’re not in anything like that,” Pratt said. “This is not Draconian. This is just belt-tightening dollars we can divert.”