By Debbie Gregory.
The number of military facilities that are so poorly maintained that they now meet the Pentagon’s definition of “failing” has steadily been on the rise. The maintenance backlog for Army facilities alone has grown substantially, rising from approximately $7 billion to $10.8 billion in just the last year.
Army experts guestimate that it will take a decade of sustained funding in order to repair and upgrade barracks, office buildings, airfields, training areas, roads and numerous other types of facilities.
Since the 2011 Budget Control Act set caps on Defense expenditures, facility upkeep has been among the lowest spending priorities.
Facility sustainment is just one function that will be forced to compete with others in the operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts. O&M Appropriation Funds cover the cost of operating and maintaining equipment at a state of readiness, paying for everything from combat training and ammunition to health care and civilian payroll. Even within the small subset of O&M dollars that makes up the Army’s facilities budget, most funds are going toward activities the Army deems most vital to current military operations.
“Because of inadequate funding, right now, what we’re doing is prioritizing those infrastructures and services that directly correlate to readiness,” said Lt. Gen. Gwendolyn Bingham, the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. Bingham serves as the principal adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Army for Installation Management, Facilities Investments, Morale, Welfare, Recreation and Family Support Programs.
“We find ourselves looking at operations and training facilities, depot maintenance and production facilities, other types of facilities that directly impact readiness,” Bingham said. “That’s how we’re prioritizing.”
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff in charge of operations and training said the service does not expect to achieve “full spectrum” readiness until sometime between 2021 and 2023.
The Defense Department and Congress have jointly decided to defer facility maintenance for several consecutive years.