Despite the budget cutbacks attributed to the war on terrorism, Army officials insist community programs that support life, health and safety won’t be shortchanged.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t poking around to see where they can save a few bucks or, in the case of security contracts, a few million.

Starting Aug. 1, the number of hours logged by companies contracted by U.S. Army Europe for security services will drop by 10 percent, said Ed Wojtyna, who oversees the $215 million program for USAREUR.

Currently, the annual number of service hours, which is how the command quantifies it, is roughly 8 million, according to Wojtyna. The planned reduction equates to about 800,000 hours.

That number may be adjusted further when the 2007 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, Wojtyna said. In keeping with the terms of the five-year contracts, implemented in fall 2003, USAREUR officials are conducting another assessment that should be completed by mid-September.

Come October, Wojtyna said in a telephone interview Thursday, “we’ll probably hold or reduce [by] a little” the number of service hours.

By far, the biggest contract that USAREUR has in this realm is with Pond Security Services, which handles gate and other security matters for all Army installations in Germany, except for U.S. Army Garrison Franconia. The security services contract for that region, which encompasses the old 98th Area Support Group in Bavaria, is with Securitas Security Services.

Those two companies, according to Wojtyna, account for 7 million of the 8 million service hours provided annually in Europe.

Security services at Army installations in Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands are handled, on a much smaller scale, by other regional security firms.

Across the European theater, there are about 5,000 private security guards working at U.S. Army installations.

Reguy Lane, the Pond project manager in Germany, said the reduction in hours overall will translate into fewer security guards on the payroll. But most of those cuts are being addressed through attrition, and no layoffs are currently planned, he said.

“Everybody is patient,” Lane said of his work force. “We’ve been through this before. There is no panicking going on out there.”

While Pond has provided security services to the Army for about 20 years, the need for such expertise greatly increased after Sept. 11, 2001. Initially, the added security was handled by U.S. and German forces, but in time, that shifted to private security firms, such as Pond.

The security contracts USAREUR has with Pond, Securitas and the other companies total about $215 million. A 10 percent reduction in service hours will probably push that figure to around $200 million.

Wojtyna and Lane declined to discuss the number of guards, their training regiment or how they are allocated. But both doubted ID-cardholders would notice changes at military installations.

Wojtyna said the reduction in hours is possible, in part, due to the repositioning of forces and technological advances, such as automated gates. In some communities, depending on the need, security personnel may be increased.

“There is always a dynamic created any time you have budget issues,” Wojtyna said. But, he added, his office “has always gotten the funding that we needed. I expect that to continue.”

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