Anticipating an end to a period of conflict that will have lasted more than a decade when the last soldiers return home, Army leadership is working to make necessary changes to accommodate them.
Their goal: to ensure that these soldiers and their families have safe and productive places to live and work, in a time when budgets will contain less money to pay for them.
During a symposium addressing what the Army of 2020 should look like, held at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition on Wednesday, Oct. 12 in Washington, a panel of senior leaders and their representatives talked of how much has changed, and how much more transformation lies ahead.
Old housing is being renovated or torn down. Energy-efficient power and water systems are replacing antiquated and expensive ones, with eyes affixed upon the impacts on the environment and historically relevant structures and landscapes.
"We are incorporating infrastructure sustainability in our master planning," said Katharine Hammack, the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, during the symposium.
This planning, Hammack said, should allow the service to redirect money saved to projects necessary for future operations. Base closures and consolidations under the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) have enabled the Army to build better roads and facilities, she said.
Energy efficiency initiatives, such as metering, installation of more efficient appliances and lighting systems, and better use of water, will enable bases to function more resiliently in times of emergency, Hammack said.
"If power goes out off base, the base is able to function," Hammack said.
Everyone in the Army – from civilian and military leaders to soldiers and their families – will have no choice but to get on board with the tides of change, Hammack also said, noting that the secretary of the Army has called for some $2.5 billion in reductions in operating costs for installations. Those changes, she said, will take effect in Fiscal Year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, 2012.
"Soldiers are coming home. That’s a good thing," Hammack said.
But many soldiers in combat theaters have asked her what they should expect to be doing once they do return to their bases.
"There [are] jobs for them to do on our installations. What that means, though, is some contracted services are going … away, because we will have soldiers who will be able to perform the jobs they did prior to going away," she said.
Hammack also talked of possibly streamlining the myriad of soldier and family programs.
"Many families I’ve talked to said there are so many services and programs out there, that it’s hard to find the right one. Maybe that’s because it’s become too complicated. Maybe we need to consolidate programs and services so they are easier to find, so that soldiers and families can get the services they need at the right time," Hammack said.