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'Agonizing' cuts slated for on-base services

Sep. 28, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Marine Gen. James F. Amos
If sequestration continues, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos said 'very important but less critical programs, like morale and family support services, to include the availability of child care, will be reduced or eliminated to fund readiness.' ()
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The commandant of the Marine Corps underscored the reality of tough budget decisions Sept. 18 with a statement confirming many Marine Corps installation residents’ worst fears.

If sequestration continues, Gen. Jim Amos said in remarks prepared for the House Armed Services Committee, “very important but less critical programs, like morale and family support services, to include the availability of child care, will be reduced or eliminated to fund readiness.”

For Marine Corps Installations Command, which was fully activated just last year, “agonizing” budget decisions mean every base service apart from emergency response and life-essential functions will be on the table for cuts, said MCICOM commander Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala.

Ayala, who assumed his position in July, is overseeing a Pacific-region infrastructure buildup to accommodate a planned force shift while weighing a range of unpopular base cuts and working to transform troops’ thinking about their consumption of the installations’ largest cost drivers: energy and utilities.

In the Pacific, the Marine Corps is allotting hundreds of millions in construction projects: $600 million for MilCon in Hawaii alone, where the Corps plans to move five squadrons and some 2,700 Marines and their dependents by 2019, Ayala said. Though Congress has frozen federal funding for the Marine Corps’ move of 8,000 troops from Okinawa to Guam due to budget cuts, Ayala said facilities are still being improved and enlarged at Andersen Air Force Base and Apra Harbor, Guam, for their eventual arrival, with estimated project completion dates in 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, he said, discussions are ongoing with Australian leaders about additional facilities that may be needed to house the 2,500 Marines who will eventually be deployed to Darwin, up from the 250 training there now. Between facilities at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin and the Australian Army’s Robertson Barracks, space exists to house 1,200 Marines, more than enough for planned 2014 Australia deployments.

At home, Ayala said, he has asked his commanders to apply recommendations from this year’s Strategic Workforce Planning study, slated for completion in November, to learn how to shed manpower and maintain capabilities.

“Do we really need 10 people in a foxhole? Can we do the job with nine?” Ayala said. “We’re looking at everything to reduce costs.”

Building on a previous initiative that charged or rewarded military families in on-base housing according to their energy consumption, Ayala said MCICOM was examining ways to minimize consumption in the barracks, with a plan to designate energy managers in each unit to monitor usage and promote best practices.

“We want to install that energy ethos to where people are aware of why it’s important to turn off the light, for them to conserve energy, because it equals more funding so we can be prepared to train more,” Ayala said.

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