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Fort Knox is in the midst of a challenging time due to the combined fiscal impacts associated with the continuing resolution, sequestration and emerging overseas contingency operations requirements.
According to the U.S. Army Program Analysis and Evaluation Office, the installation and its organizations will face reductions up to $134 million over the next six months. Over the same period, the Army’s total budget reductions stand to be $18 billion, while the entire Department of Defense’s projected budget reduction is $46 billion.
Make no mistake – these reductions will create significant impacts. Training, services and the ability to successfully carry out missions will suffer, as will the local economy. About 5,200 Fort Knox Army civilians face administrative furloughs for up to 22 discontinuous work days as well, beginning in late April through September, resulting in a total salary reduction of up to $32 million.
When these budget uncertainties may end or stabilize also is unknown. It is for these reasons leadership across Fort Knox has been heavily engaged in planning how to reduce costs while minimizing impacts as best as possible and in ways that are reversible and recoverable.
One such plan that’s already in effect concerns energy usage. We now are lowering the temperatures in buildings during this cold period and we will raise the temperatures in buildings during the warm period to reduce the costs of our energy bills by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Office custodial contracts have been greatly reduced as well and business travel and non-essential training are other examples of where we are cutting spending.
Within my command, our funding has been reduced by $98 million. As an example of what we’re doing, all of our contracts and events are under review to determine where we can take risks while continuing to fund our core mission to develop and train cadets to become commissioned officers. This includes our ability to still conduct world-class training at Fort Knox during the summer for the 1,500 cadets who will participate in our Leaders’ Training Course.
The U.S. Army Recruiting Command is limiting its marketing budgets, use of government vehicles and business travel to the maximum extent possible in order to maintain the ability for its recruiters to continue to contact, engage and enlist our future soldiers.
The Army Tuition Assistance Program, run by U.S. Army Human Resources Command, recently has been suspended. This program has provided financial assistance to soldiers for educational programs in support of their professional development, but the fiscal challenges required the secretary of the Army to make this change which affects all soldiers who aren’t already enrolled in courses approved for tuition assistance.
Limited staffing, reduced operating hours and office closures on certain days of the week are other realistic actions subject to go into effect across post. This will be noticeable to the public, but when decisions like these are made, I will ensure they are communicated with as much advance notice as possible.
All organizations on post face these challenges, but one area that will not be compromised in any way is the commitment to providing our soldiers who are set to deploy the training they require to be ready for their missions ahead. Our brave men and women deserve no less.
Another area of paramount importance is ensuring we always have personnel ready to respond to on-post emergencies and provide first-rate medical care for all beneficiaries. We are faced with tough decisions, but two easy decisions are maintaining our ability to fully prepare our soldiers for combat and ensuring the safety of all those who live, work and play on Fort Knox.
In spite of these fiscal challenges, the shared goal among Fort Knox leadership is to do everything we can to support the affected workforce, while remaining committed to providing the best services and programs as seamlessly as can be done.
I appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we work through this period. I’ve personally noticed – regardless of how one may be affected – the workforce remains professional and just as dedicated toward supporting the warfighter and his or her family. It’s for reasons like these I am proud to serve and be a part of the U.S. Army.
Thank you to the entire Fort Knox team for what you contribute each day. You accomplish our Army’s critical missions, which support and defend this great nation.
Strength Starts Here.
Maj. Gen. Jefforey A. Smith heads the U.S. Army Cadet Command and is commanding general at Fort Knox. His column was provided by the Public Affairs Office at Fort Knox.