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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Back in February, Yokota was facing a $10 million shortfall in its operations budget.

It cast some worry over covering expenses for most of the base’s mission support services, utilities, recurring contracts and civilian pay.

“In this environment, we must do all we can to cut expenses — and we must begin now,” Col. Scott Goodwin, the former 374th Airlift Wing commander, wrote in a Feb. 7 memorandum to all base personnel.

Several cost-cutting measures since then have put Yokota back on sturdy financial ground, according to Lt. Col. Michael Crook, the 374th Comptroller Squadron commander.

“Each year is different,” he said. “[Fiscal 2007] was a fiscally constrained year so cuts, some drastic, were made to stay within our funding limits … It was programmed to be that way since the early 2000s.”

Eight months ago, base finance officials examined all budget areas as they sought out ways to trim costs, Crook said. Temporary-duty assignments, training, mission supplies and contracts were among them.

He said contracts tied to custodial, waste and grounds maintenance were reduced up to 23 percent. That included cutting janitorial services to public restrooms, and reducing tree and shrub trimming to only when needed.

On Oct. 1, the start of fiscal year 2008, several of those services were restored, he added.

In addition, the base saved money by delaying some purchases or contracts that could be eliminated for a year, Crook said.

“Now these must be funded,” he added. “Some examples are incinerator ash removal, endangered species management and biodiversity surveys.”

Some construction plans also were put on hold last year, he said, but Yokota officials managed to fund many significant paving projects in September. He declined to provide specifics.

Capt. Chris Watt, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman, said the base never “cut corners,” only costs.

“Safety is our top priority on all projects and operations,” he said. “We were told we needed to save $10 million somewhere. We saw early enough we could make some cuts to save money. It was always base support areas, not mission-essential stuff.

“The mission still got done. Safety was still No. 1 and security was still at its appropriate levels.”

Funding for this year’s National Defense Authorization Act hasn’t been finalized by Congress, and it still has to be signed by President Bush. In the meantime, the Pentagon is operating under a Continuing Resolution Authority until Nov. 16.

While appropriations issues remain unresolved, the outlook is expected to be better this year, according to Crook. But he said the war on terror has changed dynamics and altered the budgetary landscape.

“We are beyond the era of robust funding. Money will be tight for years to come,” Crook said. “Every savings gained from efficiency improvements can be used for other mission needs. Energy savings is the most prominent area where everyone can contribute to wing savings. Energy savings always makes good sense.”

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