Report says Army miscounts could slow stateside moves
WASHINGTON — Preparations for the influx of soldiers to stateside bases may be slowed by inaccurate personnel counts and unclear funding promises, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.
Researchers from the congressional office found that most expansion and new construction efforts are well under way at bases expecting to see thousands of new permanent-station soldiers and their families in the next four years. The moves, along with the most recent Base Realignment and Closure round, have been planned since 2005.
But report authors also found discrepancies in the number of troops Army officials and installation managers are expecting to see.
“The study didn’t look at the sequencing of events or the feasibility of completing the work; we’re simply pointing out that to do that effectively you need to know how many people are coming and when they’ll be there,” said Brian Lepore, director of defense capabilities and management of the GAO.
For example, leaders at Georgia’s Fort Benning are expecting more than 8,700 school-age children to arrive as a result of the moves over the next four years, but Defense Department figures estimated only about 5,300.
Official estimates for Texas’ Fort Bliss sit about 1,500 below what base officials expect when the 1st Armored Division fully relocates from Germany in fiscal 2011. The official tallies for the 1st Infantry Division’s move from Germany to Fort Riley in Kansas are nearly 600 below what local officials anticipate.
“Consequently, communities cannot fully determine their requirements because of changing Army plans,” the report said. “Some communities’ officials were concerned that Army plans could change … but they would not find out until after new construction had been started or completed.”
In a response to the report, Army officials said many of the discrepancies were from out-of-date figures from 2006, and that all planners are now using the same, accurate numbers.
But the researchers said they have found the same counting problems in the past few months, raising further concerns.
“Forts Benning and Riley officials told us that they have been in direct contact with the units that will be moving to the bases and consequently believe that their own estimates more accurately reflect impending growth than those by Army headquarters,” the report said.
“As a result, (those) officials are relying on their own estimates and communicating them to local officials...”
The report also warns that more than $8 billion needed to build housing, roads and family facilities has still not been set aside by Army officials, who expect to pull the money from non-BRAC funds.
Researchers noted that while the service may still have plenty of funding resources for the work, not having the money set aside leaves those projects vulnerable to being passed over for more pressing needs, like ongoing operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.