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Odierno: Is joint basing working?

Nov. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Gen. Raymond Odierno
Gen. Raymond Odierno recently said '... in some places we are having problems with joint basing.' (Colin Kelly/Staff)
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The services are mulling an end to joint basing as they question whether the concept lived up to its billing as a cost-saving measure, according to Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno.

Service officials are exploring the move following a Government Accountability Office report that says 20-year savings for the initiative have fallen by nearly 90 percent from $2.3 billion to $249 million.

Joint basing, which stemmed from a 2005 recommendation of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, merged 26 service-specific installations into 12 joint mega-bases.

“It’s been now three to five years, and it’s time for us to assess: Are we getting the benefits out of it? Is it working? Where are we having problems, because in some places we are having problems with joint basing,” Odierno said during a panel discussion at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting last week.

The director of the Army staff Lt. Gen. Bill Grisoli and his counterparts in the other services have formed a group to review the issue, and Odierno plans to eventually meet with the other service chiefs about it.

One of the challenges of joint basing has been navigating the cultural differences between the services, he said.

“There is a difference in culture between the services,” Odierno said. “There’s a difference in what we think we should have, and there’s a difference in what they think we should have, and there’s a difference in what they think they should have, and what we think they should have.

“So we have to sit down now and take a look at it, and are we truly reaping the benefits and savings that we thought we would, and what is the cost to our families and to our other programs that we have on the installations. So that’s what we’ve asked them to take a look at,” he said.

Noting the deadline for implementation was in 2011, Army spokesman George Wright said that Army leaders are still adjusting to different cultures and ways of delivering services. For example, Air Force medical organizations deliver some programs that the Army delivers through non-medical personnel under garrison community services offices. Also, the Army and Air Force have models for distributing Army Air Force Exchange Service funds.

Writing in in response to the GAO report September 2012, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for installations and the environment John Conger likened the consolidation to a series of corporate mergers in which “the cultural differences are often the hardest to bridge.” GAO recommended savings targets for the posts, but Conger said at the time they would be overly restrictive to post commanders, as well as “premature and arbitrary.”

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