Seeking to ease longstanding problems exacerbated by frequent troop deployments
to fight the war on terrorism, the U.S. Army is reorganizing the way that it
runs its military bases across the United States and around the world.
For the first time, the mission has been handed to one organization—the
Army Installation Agency, which was established in 2002.
The IMA, headquartered in Crystal City, Va., is the brainchild of former Army
Secretary Thomas E. White, who previously had retired from the service as a
brigadier general. When he returned as secretary, White “took a look at
Army installations, and he saw they weren’t going anywhere,” said
the agency’s director, Maj. Gen. Anders B. Aadland. White “saw the
same old problems, and he said this isn’t working,” Aadland told
What bothered White—and other Army leaders—was the service’s
tradition of funding weapons and equipment programs at the expense of base infrastructure
“Army installations are our nation’s power-projection platforms,”
Gen. John M. Keane, who retired in September as the service’s vice chief
of staff, told a congressional hearing earlier this year.
The Army depends upon its bases to support its troops and all of their supplies
and equipment, he said. “However, a decade of chronic under funding has
left [more than] 50 percent of our facilities in such poor condition that commanders
rated them as ‘adversely affecting mission requirements.”
As a result, base commanders have been hard pressed to meet the needs of troops
in recent deployments. As an example, Aadland cited Fort Carson, Colo., which
in early 2003 served as the temporary home for approximately 3,600 National
Guard and Army reserve troops on their way to Iraq. The numbers far exceeded
the space available in the base’s barracks, he explained.
“We had troops sleeping in folding cots on gymnasium floors and in motor
pools for weeks,” he said. “This was in the winter, in the Rocky
Mountains, and those places aren’t heated very well.”
Unit commanders didn’t complain much. “They said, ‘after
all, we’re going to war. It’s better here, even under these conditions,
than it will be there,’” Aadland noted. Still, base officials moved
as quickly as they could to set up portable heaters, shower facilities and latrines,
Returning troops also have experienced difficulties. In October, complaints
surfaced that injured and sick Guard and reserve troops—on medical hold
at Fort Stewart, Ga., after returning from Iraq—were being housed for
months in barracks without air conditioning, attached showers or latrines.
The barracks were designed for temporary use during two-weeks of summer training.
Yet some soldiers said that they had been waiting for more than 10 months to
have their medical conditions evaluated.
The complaints attracted the attention of Sens. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Patrick
Leahy, D-Vt., co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus. They sent staff
members to investigate and issued a joint report calling for the Army to rectify
“inadequate” and “unacceptable” living conditions and
long waits for medical clearance at Fort Stewart.
“These inadequate conditions are the result of preparedness for the influx
of injured soldiers,” the report said. “As a result, the Army has
an insufficient number of medical clinicians, specialists and support personnel
to care for and evaluate the injured National Guard and Army soldiers.”
Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, traveling to Fort Stewart, vowed that the
service would work to ensure that all soldiers on medical hold would have barracks
with indoor latrines and air conditioning, as well as expedited health care.
Sorting out such problems throughout the Army is falling to the IMA, which
came into being just before the Iraq war began. The current shortage of troop
facilities is “not an easy one to get your arms around,” said the
agency’s public affairs officer, Lt. Col. Gene Pawlik. Many bases are
overflowing with troops in transit—putting barracks space in short supply—while
many medical personnel are deployed overseas, he said.
Creating the IMA, however, makes it easier for the Army to shift assets from
one base where they are not needed to another where they are, Aadland said.
“This is one of the most significant changes for the Army since TRADOC
[the Training and Doctrine Command] was created in the early 1970s,” he
Previously, Aadland explained, Army installations were managed by major commands
based on them. Fort Stewart, for example, was operated by the Third Infantry
Division. Fort Carson was run by the 7th Infantry Division.
Traditionally, “the Army fights in a decentralized fashion,” Aadland
said. “Each command is responsible for its own operations. We have run
our installations the same way. One of our challenges is to change this outlook.”
The IMA’s mission, Aadland explained, is to take over management of the
vast majority of Army bases, run them more efficiently and effectively and allow
the major commands to concentrate on their core war-fighting missions. No longer
would mission readiness have to compete with installation management and quality
of life, he said.
The IMA now is responsible for all Army bases except for 36 “special
installations,” Aadland said. These are generally very small, mostly industrial
installations, without stand-alone garrison staffs.
The Army still is considering how these bases, including both government-owned,
government-operated installations and government-owned, contractor-operated
facilities, should be managed, he said. Currently, they still are being managed
by the major commands whose units are based there.
The remainder of the Army’s bases—181 of them—are run by
the IMA, with a budget of $14 billion and a staff of 75,000 soldiers and civilians.
Some of the bases are as old as the Army itself. For example, West Point, in
New York, was founded by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Others, such as Fort Myer, Va., date back to the Civil War. Fort Leavenworth,
Kan., began life as an outpost on the Western frontier. Many across the South
were established during World Wars I and II. The Cold War saw the proliferation
of bases in Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Time has not been kind to the amenities on many of these installations, particularly
housing for military personnel and their families, Aadland said. Many single
enlisted people still live, as they have for decades, in open-bay barracks,
with gang latrines. But the Army is committed to changing that, Aadland said.
In the late 1990s, the Army established a barracks upgrade program. The service
is replacing open-bay barracks with two-bedroom apartments, with each soldier
having his or her own room. By the end of 2000, 70 percent of all unmarried
enlisted personnel on permanent assignments had such quarters, Aadland said.
By 2010, the remainder should be living in the apartments.
Two thirds of today’s soldiers are married, but all major Army posts
have long waiting lists for family housing. And when on-base housing does become
available, it often is decades old and in need of major repairs, Aadland said.
To eliminate inadequate military family housing, the Army has embarked upon
a Residential Communities Initiative. The RCI program, as it is known, seeks
to privatize housing on Army bases. RCI has attracted more than $700 million
in private capital to build, renovate and manage the Army’s family housing
at a faster rate than the service could manage on its own, officials said.
Housing operations already have been privatized at nine installations. By the
end of 2002, 15,700 housing units had been built or renovated at Forts Carson;
Hood, Texas; Lewis, Wash., and Meade, Md.
Fort Stewart and four forts in Virginia—Belvoir, Eustis, Story and Monroe—are
scheduled to make the transition in 2004. By the end of 2006, the Army plans
to privatize 28 projects, including 71,000 homes, more than 80 percent of the
service’s family housing inventory within the United States.
“In time—and believe me, this isn’t going to happen overnight—a
soldier, his young spouse and their children will be able to have a pretty good
expectation of a decent place to live,” Aadland said.
In addition to housing, the agency oversees a wide range of installation-support
programs, including force protection, construction, public works, environmental
cleanup, landscaping, morale and welfare, and family care.
The vast majority of the base employees who perform these functions are now
civilians, Aadland explained. The Army officers and senior enlisted personnel
who used to supervise base-management operations “are all gone,”
At present, only 7.5 percent of the base-management staff—about 5,800
people—are soldiers. “And we could lose them too,” Aadland
The shrinking number of uniformed personnel running Army bases is part of the
Pentagon’s effort to cope with a shortage of military personnel who can
be deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts in the war on terror. As many
non-military jobs as possible are being turned over to civilians and the soldiers
who previously did them transferred to duties with a more military nature.
This fall, for example, the Army began turning over responsibility for base
security to private contractors. Previously that role had been filled by Army-and
since the 2001 terrorist attacks—National Guard and reserve security units.
By November 1, private-sector guards had taken over guard posts at Forts Detrick,
Md., Sam Houston, Texas; Bragg, N.C.; Huachuca, Ariz.; Myer, Va., and McNair,
D.C., plus Walter Reed Medical Center, D.C., and Tooele Army Depot, Utah.
More are to follow, Aadland, said. At most recent count, he said, atotal of
22 Army installations had contracted for private gate guards. This, Aadland
said, is a big change from traditional practice.
Until 2001, federal law prohibited contract security at military installations.
After the September 11 attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which in part
allowed the services to contract force-protection efforts through state and
As it turned out, however, state and local organizations had their hands full
protecting their own facilities, so in 2002, Congress authorized the services
to hire private security.
Army officials are watching to make sure that the private guards do an adequate
job at their posts, Aadland said. “I don’t want some fat slob out
there replacing a soldier,” he said.
The private guards “have to be lean and mean, and able to pass fitness
tests,” he said. “We put that into the contract.”
The Army means to see that the security firms live up to their end of the contract,
Aadland said. “I’ve got my people out checking. We can’t afford
to screw this up.”
Base managers, however, don’t want to lose many more of their soldiers,
Aadland said. “It’s probably gone about as far as it ought to go,”
“Some of what we do needs to be done by green suiters.” As examples,
he cited the jobs of base commander, sergeant major, provost marshal and chief
of emergency operations.
Transition to the IMA is being phased in over a two-year period to include
installations at all major commands around the world, Aadland explained. Bases
in combat theaters, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, will remain under the control
of regional commanders, he said. If the Army establishes forward training facilities
in places such as Eastern Europe, however, the IMA might be asked to manage
Eventually, many military installations will be “purple”—or
joint—in nature, able to accommodate units from several services, not
just one, according to Raymond F. DuBois Jr., deputy undersecretrary of defense
for installations and environment.
Many base managers see these changes as “threatening,” Keane conceded
to a September meeting of garrison leaders in San Antonio, Texas. But he warned
them: “We are going to hold you accountable for these standards. The reorganization
is “a huge step in the right direction,” Keane said. “Three
to five years from now, everyone will agree that it was the right step to take.”