Base services facing cuts
By KRISTIN M. HALL
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Soldiers and their families on Army bases around the country could see cutbacks in trash pickup, lawn-mowing and other services as the military tries to hold down non-war spending while escalating the fight in Afghanistan.
Even as total defense spending rises, the portion of the Army budget dedicated to running its bases is down 20 percent this year, according to figures provided to The Associated Press by an Army official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about them.
The budgets for individual bases are not yet final. But the proposed cuts vary in size and run as deep as 40 percent at some major installations, including Fort Campbell, according to the figures.
Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne Division, is considering eliminating lawn-mowing and janitorial services and shortening hours at recreation centers, Fort Campbell spokeswoman Kelly Tyler said. But that may not be enough, she said.
Some members of the military are worried money will be pulled from programs that help spouses and children cope with soldiers' repeated tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, who as head of the Army's Installation Management Command is in charge of the budget for bases, said in a recent commentary distributed to Army post newspapers that the service has enjoyed unprecedented levels of funding in the past years, but that can't continue.
"As the country faces some stiff economic challenges, we are forced to reduce funding and exact a greater level of stewardship over our resources," Lynch said. Starting this year, "performance levels for some installation services will be notably less than we've had in recent years and will remain at that level for the foreseeable future."
"The administration has been clear," White House budget office spokesman Tom Gavin said. "Funding intended for our troops at war should go to our troops at war.
"Those funds should not be diverted for cutting grass or other general operations at military bases." He said the Pentagon "receives significant funds each year for base operations, and the Pentagon determines how those funds are utilized."
Army posts provide many of the services that soldiers and their families have come to rely on, including child and youth programs, continuing education, dining and recreational facilities, and help with overcoming drug and alcohol abuse.
Lynch said that certain services, such as police and fire protection, will be fully funded and that the Army is committed to continuing family-focused programs, such as child care. He did not specify where cuts would be made.
It wasn't clear how the military's other branches might be affected, though the Army is by far the largest. Officials with the Marines, Navy and Air Force did not respond to requests for information.
Some of the Army's biggest posts, where soldiers have completed four and five combat tours since the wars began, are facing significant spending reductions, according to the figures obtained by the AP.
At Fort Campbell, where about 17,000 soldiers are leaving this year for Afghanistan, commanders have been told that the operating budget for the current fiscal year could drop 40 percent, from $177.5 million last year to $106.5 million, Tyler said.
Cuts could be 39 percent at Fort Stewart, Ga., 25 percent at Fort Bragg, N.C., 22 percent at Fort Drum, N.Y., and 21 percent at Bamberg, Germany, the figures show.