Now that the sequester has kicked in, Fort Hood and Central Texas may not see changes immediately, but if no action is taken, there will be changes, said local and Army officials.
“Bottom line, up front, sequestration will affect soldiers, families and our civilian workforce and the community businesses around installations,” said Brig. Gen. Curt Rauhut, director of resource management for Installation Management Command, during a discussion panel Wednesday.
Sequestration — which includes $12 billion in automatic cuts to the Army over the next seven months — combined with a continuing resolution and the emerging shortfall in war funding have created “a devastating environment to operate in,” said Maj. Gen. Karen E. Dyson, director for Army Budget.
Aside from the negative impact to soldiers’ readiness and training schedules, officials also foresee reductions to family programs and an inability for installations to modernize facilities and sustain routine maintenance.
All family programs are being looked at now, Rauhut said. No decisions have been made as to what will be cut, but a reduction in hours at child development centers and other youth programs, such as sports or recreation, are on the table.
“The impact is that a soldier or a dual-working spouse will have to then adjust their schedules, if we have to reduce hours or shut down for a day,” Rauhut said. “That’s the impact for a soldier and his or her spouse.”
Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, told Congress earlier this week the Army is prioritizing programs and trying to determine which ones are the most important for families.
“We’re trying to sustain the most critical ones,” Odierno said. “But even if we sustain them, we’re going to have to reduce some of the capability within those programs.”
On the facilities side of things, Rauhut said sustainment, restoration and modernization efforts will be reduced by $2 billion to 37 percent of what is actually required.
“All sustainment will be limited to life, health and safety issues, but we don’t even have enough money to actually fund all life, health and safety issues,” he said. “The reduction in funds ... will accelerate decay and increase future costs.”
Most maintenance conducted on installations is contracted out to businesses in the community, Rauhut said.
“These businesses will be directly affected by a reduction in work. Those soldiers who live in barracks will be affected also by reduced maintenance standards and living conditions,” he said.
John Crutchfield, CEO of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses have already begun to brace for a drop in post contracts, because of the drawdown that began with the close of the Iraq War.
“There will be some contracts suspended out there,” he said. “Some of that we planned to go through anyway.”
What troubles Crutchfield about sequestration is that there is no judgment to what contracts are cut.
“It’s across the board, and that’s not good at all,” he said. “That is not a sound way to run any organization. That’s the tragedy of all this.”
Because the impact of sequestration doesn’t really begin until April, when civilian employee furloughs could begin, there is still time for resolution, said retired Col. Bill Parry, director of Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.
“Bottom line is I remain optimistic that the president and leaders of Congress will work out a solution … and we’ll just put that out of our mind,” he said. “What we can expect for the next couple (of) days is uncertainty and anxiety.”