Overseas Basing Changes Mean Less Troop Stress, DoD Tells Senate
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 29, 2005 The plan to relocate troops from overseas bases back to the United States as part of the Defense Department's Global Defense Posture Realignment will mean less stress on military people and their families, DoD officials told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee here June 28.
"Changing the way in which we posture our forces was driven in large part by the president's and secretary's desire to relieve stress on our military forces and their families by providing more stability at home, with fewer overseas move and less disruptions," said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy before the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. "Posture changes will help reduce double separations-- those caused when accompanying dependents are separated from both their servicemember and their loved ones in the U.S."
The Global Defense Posture Realignment is an initiative President Bush announced in August 2004 to station and deploy troops from bases within the United States, while lessening the country's footprint in other nations. The 10-year plan calls for returning up to 70,000 troops and 100,000 family members and civilian employees currently based overseas to the United States.
Already, the Pentagon plans to move Army units from Korea and Germany to Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Riley, Kan.; and Fort Bliss, Texas, beginning in 2006.
Some senators expressed concerns about where units will be placed upon their return, and what affect thousands of troops will have on local communities, transportation, housing and schools.
Philip Grone, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told the panel DoD has studied those issues, consulting with state and local governments and school districts that might be affected.
"Certainly with regard to housing, our preference is to rely -- as is our standard housing policy -- on the community first," he said.
"Based on what we know, particularly for the three locations where we have the bulk of the forces returning from abroad -- Fort Carson, Fort Riley and Fort Bliss - and based on our existing housing privatization efforts at all three of those locations, we believe that there is sufficient market availability there to accommodate returning forces," Grone told the senators.
On the issue of schools, Grone said the department has been "intensely engaged" in consultations with school systems to ensure those facilities won't be adversely affected by the influx of new students. He said the department would continue those consultations through the summer, "So that when we get to the school year '06 next year, we'll be as integrated as we can be."
Where various units will be stationed upon return, Grone said, was determined by the unit, location and time. In the meantime, he said, there will be a mix of "permanent or temporary bases," adding that facilities will be made available in a phased plan over a "four- to five-year period." "We are working particularly with the Army on standardizing our facilities design so that they can be site-adapted at any location; to use commercial construction standards -- all of which is designed to make permanent facilities more quickly and more readily available to returning forces," Grone said.
He also noted that depending on the unit, temporary billeting for single enlisted personnel may be required.
Though DoD plans "to move out aggressively to provide permanent facilities as quickly as we can," Grone said, he added that the department needs full authorization and appropriation of its budget requests from Congress.
"So if we have the resources available, we can certainly accelerate," he said. "And we'll move out as expeditiously as you desire to ensure that we have facilities in place for our people."