Thursday, October 21, 2004

Stateside military installations
Outta dough

As the vice president evokes images of bombs falling on American cities, and billions earmarked for reconstruction lay untouched in Iraq, US military installations are living on austerity budgets that could affect the nation's ability to defend itself from attack. An AddieStan exclusive.

An item on today's, making note of the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill awaiting the president's signature, offers this plea: "It is hoped that the President will soon sign this bill into law."

It's difficult not to read this as an understatement when one considers that military installations throughout the U.S. have been essentially out of money since early May. Two memoranda--one from an Army general, and another, obtained by, by an unnamed Navy chief petty officer--express hope for relief at the end of the 2004 fiscal year, which concludes on October 30th.

Ship out of luck

At Norfolk Naval Station, the world's largest naval base, the situation is dire enough that the number of tug boats and cranes assigned to move an aircraft carrier out of port have been reduced, creating a situation that the chief petty officer, reporting on a June leadership conference hosted by the station's executive officer, characterized in urgent tones:

Decreasing the number of cranes and tugs available to reduce port costs. Will reduce to only four tugs. (Four is the number required to get a[n aircraft carrier] underway - so they can not drop below this number.) This may have a major impact on inport and underway times. Already ships have been told they can not get underway on the day scheduled because services not available.

The danger scenario: Ship intends to get underway at 0800. They have a crane and tugs set up for the 0800 underway. Engineering issues result in a delay. Ship is ready at 0930, but crane has moved on to other commitments and no back up exists. Ship is told they can get underway at 1130 the next day because no services are available until then.

Overtime is a complete non-starter.

Seems like a mighty lucky deal that the Navy hasn't been faced with moving one of those things out quickly in the event of, say, a surprise attack on U.S. interests.

Also mentioned in the chief petty officer's memo is the observation that the resulting decrease in "underway days" (days when ships leave port) will create a parking crisis, as more ships in port mean more cars in the lot. The officer, however does see a bright spot in this:

MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation) has contracted two full-time tow trucks to tow all those that park illegally. Currently the trucks are working full-time every day, efficiently towing Sailors' cars...On the flip side, cars not picked up after towed are sold at auction quarterly, providing MWR with funds and cheap cars to other sailors.

Other austerity measures at Norfolk include cutting phone lines and voice mail, as reported by Jack Dorsey of the Virginian-Pilot.

Life and limb

Over at the Army's Installation Management Agency (IMA), things are scarcely better. A May 12 NETCALL memo to garrison commanders from Major General Anders Aadland, IMA's director, garnered some attention when first written for its draconian-sounding call for the dropping of certain environmental safeguards. When Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) posted the missive on its Web site, resulting coverage yielded a backpedaling on Aadland's demand for "increased environmental risk" (the Army suddenly found some money to forestall the risk-taking), and the reinstatement of some temporary personnel whose positions were slated for the ax. Aadland flatly attributes the budget woes to the pursuit of the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which in Armyspeak includes the war in Iraq. (One military sage suggested to your cybertrix that the severe tone of Aadland's memo was a ploy to get his higher-ups to pony up some bucks.)

It should be here noted that garrisons house and maintain armored vehicles such as tanks and personnel carriers, as well as tactical weapons. Despite partial reinstatement of IMA's funding, your blogstress has found no evidence that the general has rescinded his call for a reductions of services to on-base personnel ("Reduce/limit [services] to provide only those services essential to support an Army at war or critical to life support of supported population"), and the slowing of maintenance work on tactical equipment.

"Perform tactical equipment maintenance only to funded support levels -- stop or control work until additional funding is provided," Aadland wrote. "Ensure coordination with supported mission activities and region director in all instances where work must be refused."

And one wonders just what this one would mean at a garrison: "Limit sustainment expenditures to repairs essential to preservation of life, limb or property and payroll for on-board personnel."

Homeland defense?

In a week in which we learned of the severe supply problems experienced by Gen. Ricardo Sanchez during his tour in Iraq, and the extreme overstretching of the Army, there is, perhaps, little surprise in learning that , here in the homeland, sailors are losing phone lines, aircraft carriers can't move out of port on schedule, and tactical equipment is being maintained at minimum levels at Army garrisons. It may be tempting to say, well, war requires such sacrifice. But in a season when homeland security is all the rage, one has to ask, aren't these outfits the first line of homeland defense?

Here in America, we've had the grace to use our military primarily as on offensive force. But what if we should require defensive action?

Your cyberscribe asked a civilian garrison worker what would happen at his installation if another GWOT front was opened? "We'd have nowhere to house the troops," he said. "The start-up would kill us."

In rallying his troops, Gen. Aadland wrote, "I know that some of these actions will be painful; I also know you understand that we would not go to these severe measures if we had a choice -- but we do not...All of you must implement these actions now and ensure resources are best used to support the war effort. I need your help to do all you can do to control costs, pursue efficiencies and cost-savings, protect the SRM investments you have already made this year, and mitigate the negative impacts of these cuts to the Soldiers, family members and civilians who depend on your installation for their vitality and life support."

Our chief petty officer chimes in, "No idea on what next year may bring. If war is continued at current pace, these measures may be long-term."

Tax cut, anyone?

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