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Programs that support fitness, community centers, libraries and other family and recreational programs at U.S. Army installations worldwide may see their services reduced or eliminated in fiscal 2017 due to Army budget cuts.

Programs that support fitness, community centers, libraries and other family and recreational programs at U.S. Army installations worldwide may see their services reduced or eliminated in fiscal 2017 due to Army budget cuts. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Programs that support fitness, community centers, libraries and other family and recreational programs at U.S. Army installations are bracing for significant funding cuts in fiscal 2017 that will affect the level of service they can provide.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the commander of U.S. Army Installation Management Command, said the Army is reducing its financial support to Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs so the service can “remain combat ready.”

“This is not earth-shattering; this is not dramatic; this is not going to be very difficult for us,” he said in a five-minute video message posted to social media on Wednesday, “but I want you to know about it upfront because you will go and see when you show up at one of these activities, there may be a change in the service delivery.”

He said patrons should start noticing changes by the end of the calendar year.

Installations are reviewing which programs are affordable and popular, with decisions on where to make reductions to be made at the garrison level.

“We’re allowing garrison and senior commanders at the local level to determine how they can absorb this reduction in funding,” Dahl said.

For many garrisons, details on what services might be cut are still pending.

In Europe, no final decisions have been made, said IMCOM-Europe spokesman Ray Johnson on Thursday, adding that announcements are expected in mid-September.

Some programs and locations won’t be affected at all. The Child Development Centers will continue to be fully supported, Dahl said. And garrisons will attempt to sustain Child and Youth Services at current levels, he said. Remote and isolated installations won’t see cuts, either, he said, “because there are no alternatives” off base.

Areas that likely will see changes include Outdoor Recreation, Arts and Crafts and Auto Skills, Dahl said.

It could be these programs reduce their operating hours, charge higher customer fees or scale back some of their services, he said.

“Perhaps you’ll go to Auto Skills and you’ll find out there’s a sign hanging there saying, ‘We’re closed on Wednesdays,’” Dahl said.

Installations might be able to avoid reductions by integrating volunteers into the work force, he said.

The hit to the Army’s family and recreational budget across the Army is about $105 million in fiscal 2017, a reduction of about 23 percent from the current fiscal year, according to Army officials.

“It’s basically a decision that’s been made on the senior Army level, the senior levels of Installation Management Command, to use funds that typically have been funding FMWR programs to use them to pay for other, more important priorities,” Fort Jackson FMWR Director Daniel Ahern was quoted as saying last month in the Fort Jackson Leader, the base’s newspaper.

Fort Jackson last month announced cuts to its family and recreational programs. A fitness center at the South Carolina base is closing, the base library will no longer be open on weekends, and recreational trips and delivery services will be reduced or eliminated, according to the base newspaper. The base will also close one of its pools next year.

Other bases in the States have also made similar announcements. The frame shop at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was to be shuttered at the end of last month, and full-service car repairs were to be eliminated at the Auto Skills Center, according to the base newspaper.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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