Service infrastructure officials told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s military construction and veterans affairs subcommittee Tuesday that budget cuts have harmed mission readiness by delaying repairs and improvements to infrastructure. Each cited a need for a new BRAC round to eliminate excess infrastructure.
“We believe BRAC will provide the most comprehensive, transparent and collaborative way to align infrastructure capacity with mission requirements,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Timothy S. Green, deputy chief of staff for logistics, installations and mission support and Air Force director of civil engineers, reported DoD News.
The alternative to a new round of base closures is to make up for funding shortages in ways that will increase risk, said Army Lt. Gen. David D. Halverson, assistant chief of staff for installation management and commander of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command. Testifying before the subcommittee with Green and Halverson were officials from the Navy and Marine Corps.
Excess capacity will only increase as end strength declines, the officials noted. Halverson said the Army’s facility capacity is 18 percent greater than it needs while Green said the Air Force’s excess capacity stands at 30 percent of the total infrastructure.
“The Army is at a critical point in installation readiness,” Halverson said. “Sequestration … is affecting the Army’s ability to provide facilities that our all-volunteer soldiers and their families rely and depend upon to sustain readiness and maintain their quality of life.”
The Army’s funding request is the minimum to meet its essential requirements, Halverson told the subcommittee. “Our request focuses [military construction] investments on supporting readiness initiatives and revitalizing failed facilities,” he said.
“Although we are asking for a 26 percent increase in the [FY 2015] military construction, family housing and base closure activities, it is important to note that the $1.6 billion request is a 33 percent reduction from [FY 2014] and a 55 percent reduction from [FY 2013],” Halverson added. “Any further reductions will put us at the brink of breaking our soldiers’ trust that we will provide them the right resources to prepare for any contingency.”
Budget shortfalls over the past few years have forced the Navy to reduce funding to shore infrastructure to preserve fleet operational readiness, Erin M. Kern, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, told the senators.
“As a result, many of our shore facilities are degrading at an accelerated rate,” she said. “At sequestration levels, this risk will be exacerbated and the condition of our shore infrastructure — including piers, runways and mission-critical facilities — will further erode. We will run a greater risk of mishaps, serious injury and health hazards to personnel.”
The Navy hasn’t yet recovered from sequestration in FY 2013, Kern added. “Our 2016 budget request funds the sustainment, restoration and modernization of our facilities only enough to arrest the immediate decline in condition of our most critical infrastructure,” she said.
The Marine Corps’ first priority is to reinforce the near-term readiness capabilities of deployed Marines, said David R. Clifton, deputy assistant deputy commandant for facilities, installations and logistics and deputy commander of Marine Corps Installations Command.
“To accomplish that priority in fiscal year ’16, the Marine Corps must accept risk in our infrastructure and base operations, including our quality of life programs,” he said.
The infrastructure funds will go toward improving safety, security and environmental compliance, replacing aging infrastructure, and demolishing inadequate, unneeded buildings, Clifton told the senators. “Funding remains insufficient to prevent accelerated deterioration of our 12,000 buildings, range complexes, barracks and airfields,” he noted.
Without relief from sequestration, the Air Force could expect reductions in infrastructure funding that would touch every level of national security strategy, Green said.
“It would likely result in reduced funding to support combatant commands, upgrade critical nuclear infrastructure, ensure facilities are in place for our modernized weapons systems as well as recapitalization of housing and dormitories,” Green added. “The Air Force would expect similar reductions in [FY 2016] facility sustainment, restoration and modernization accounts, forcing us to prioritize day-to-day maintenance activities at the expense of much-needed facility repairs.”
The Air Force’s $1.6 billion budget request for FY 2016 allows it to begin addressing necessary infrastructure recapitalization and facility sustainment and repair backlogs that have contributed to the degradation of its combat support capabilities, Green said.