Thursday, January 17, 2013

Army Prepares for Sequestration

The Association of Defense Communities reports the Army on Wednesday ordered senior commanders to trim spending on a broad array of installation support functions, including community and recreational activities, utilities and the delivery of other services.

Overall, commanders are directed to carry out “across-the-board efficiencies” to achieve at least a 30% savings in fiscal 2013 base operations support compared to FY 2012 spending levels, according to a memo from Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and Secretary John McHugh. The memo also orders commanders to reduce new and current contracts to minimum levels without incurring penalties.

Soon the assistant secretary for manpower & reserve affairs will issue guidance on the use of soldiers to perform installation functions.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter already authorized the services and defense agencies to consider a range of immediate actions to mitigate the possibility of deep budget cuts, such as trimming facilities maintenance, reducing base operating funding, and limiting travel, training and conferences to mitigate the possibility that the department is required to identify FY 2013 savings of about $45 billion starting in March.

The austerity measures also are needed to accommodate the likelihood that the department is funded under a continuing resolution through Sept. 30.

The directive calls for Army commanders to cease facilities sustainment activities that “are not directly connected to life, health or safety.” Commanders also should stop all restoration and modernization projects, including the facilities reduction program and projects required to allow stationing decisions to go ahead.

No earlier than Feb. 15, officials should consider cancelling third and fourth quarter ship maintenance availabilities, and aviation and ground depot-level maintenance. Officials also will need to conduct a related planning effort for further actions that would be necessary if sequestration is imposed.

The memo also directs the services to draw up contingency plans for actions that most likely would not be implemented unless sequestration is triggered March 1. Other actions include implementing an immediate civilian hiring freeze across the Army and terminating temporary employees “consistent with mission requirements.” Commanders may need to consider civilian 30-day furloughs and authorizing voluntary separation incentives furloughs. But those are “a tool of last resort.”

Funding for military personnel would be exempt from the across-the-board cuts imposed under sequestration, while funding for wartime operations and wounded warrior programs should be “fully protected” under planned budget actions. Programs that managers should attempt to protect “to the extent feasible” in drafting contingency plans include family programs, funding most directly associated with readiness and programs closely associated with the new defense strategy.

In considering cost-cutting steps affecting construction projects, managers should attempt to minimize disruption and avoid penalties.

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