Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of information out there about what sequestration means for Fort Hood and Central Texas. Through research and interviews with Army and post officials, the Herald has compiled a by-the-numbers look at the facts and impact of the budget cuts coming to Fort Hood.
Big Army budget woes
Sequestration is just one budget shortfall facing the Army. These automatic reductions, which went into effect Friday, make up $12 billion the Army must cut within the next seven months. The sequester stems from legislation passed in 2011 setting the automatic cuts deemed so dire, Congress would be forced to reach a bipartisan solution before allowing them to go into effect.
Compounding the problem, the Army has not received appropriations for fiscal year 2013 because Congress has not passed a budget. Since Oct. 1, the Army has been spending on 2012 cost allocations, which are less than what was requested.
The continuing resolution underfunds the Army’s operations and maintenance account by $6 billion. This account directly supports the war in Afghanistan, other worldwide operations, training, exercises and mission support, base operations support and facility sustainment at all posts, camps and stations and pays for soldier and family programs.
The Afghanistan war is estimated to cost about $6 billion more than what’s budgeted as well.
Funding for the war effort, wounded warrior programs and critical soldier and family programs make up about $25 billion or 43 percent of the Army’s operations and maintenance account, which leaves the remaining amount unprotected from cuts.
Because the Army has been spending since October, budget officials said only $20 billion remains in the account, which must now cut $18 billion mandated by the sequester.
Fort Hood and the civilian workforce
Sequestration will cost Fort Hood $291 million and the potential furlough of about 6,000 civilian employees. The furloughs would begin in April with employees being asked to work one day less per week. That’s a 20 percent cut to pay.
A hiring freeze was implemented Army-wide in January to prepare for the cuts, and is estimated to save Fort Hood $1.5 million. There are 238 open positions on post, but 154 are considered critical vacancies and can be filled. Critical jobs include firefighters, air traffic controllers and lifeguards.
Service member pay is protected under the sequester.
Training across the post will drop considerably for 78 percent of soldiers. Any training that does occur for those soldiers will not be above the squad level, according to Army leaders. The remaining 22 percent, which are flagged for a deployment to Afghanistan, Korea or are part of the global response force, will continue to train as usual. Because of this, units serving in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended. If deemed necessary, this would begin in fiscal year 2014.
Critical family programs are protected. Army leaders have said they are currently reviewing which are “critical” and which could take some cuts. Those not deemed critical could see severe cuts.
Child development centers may reduce hours of operation and youth recreation and sports programs could take a hit. No decisions have been made on how these reductions will play out.
Any construction contracts already awarded, including the new, $551 million Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Hood Stadium and the unmanned aerial systems hangar are safe. Projects in the 2012 Facilities Restoration Program also are safe.
Fort Hood’s three 2013 Army military construction projects, totaling more than $50 million are said to still move forward, but contracts have not been awarded. This construction includes headquarter facilities to support the drone hangar, training aids center and a modified shooting range.
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. There will be no upgrades to any facilities.
It’s possible that leaky roofs will get tarps, broken windows will be boarded up and soldiers with broken showers will be directed elsewhere, according to Army budget officials.
This will accelerate decay and increase future costs of maintaining facilities.
Most maintenance conducted on installations is contracted out to businesses in the community, meaning less business for those outside the gate.