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DoD Official Recounts 'Great Strides' in Housing Upgrades; Discusses Base Closure

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23, 2002 – DoD has made "great strides" in privatizing and upgrading military housing. And the current marker is to fix inadequate housing by 2007.

Raymond DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, made this assessment at a year-end media roundtable Dec. 20. He also discussed realigning and closing bases, and environmental issues.

In January 2001, he said, fewer than 6,000 housing units were contracted for privatization out of more than 270,000 in DoD. By the end of fiscal 2003, the department will have contracted with the private sector to upgrade and improve 68,000 housing units a tenfold, dramatic increase, he said.

He recalled President Bush's reaction to housing and barracks conditions during a 2001visit to Fort Stewart, Ga. DuBois said the president turned to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and said, "We've got to do something about this, and we've got to do something about this as quickly as possible."

Getting "some flexibility on our test and training ranges and our installations to better maintain military readiness" has required some effort also, according to DuBois in his role as DoD's point man for the environment.

He talked about the special issue of environmental encroachment. "You've heard me and others say that the environmental encroachment poses challenges to us in terms of our ability to train as we fight," DuBois said. "When you send young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines out to Afghanistan, they end up fighting as they have trained.

It's "not just the Endangered Species Act and critical habitat management issues that we face every day," he continued. "It's also urban sprawl; and it's also airspace management; it's also spectrum competition. All of these issues I put under the umbrella of encroachment."

He noted that Congress had adopted only one of DoD's six requested environmental amendments in the fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act. "What exactly will be in the administration's (fiscal 2004) request I can't talk to," DuBois offered, "other than to let you (know) from my personal standpoint, the six provisions that we suggested or urged that Congress adopt remain, in our view, very important."

DuBois said that DoD would begin another round of base closures and realignment in 2005. DuBois said he thinks Congress recognized the importance of transforming and restructuring DoD's property assets.

The deputy undersecretary also said DoD looking at more joint-service use of bases. "Over the last 25 years, we have seen a movement toward multi-service, multi-mission installations, albeit it not a lot," DuBois said. "The secretary put down the marker: Maximize joint use."

DuBois said that base realignments and closures could probably end up costing the DoD an estimated $10 to $20 billion over a four- to six-year period, depending on how much the BRAC encompasses. However, he said that by 2011, the investment in base reductions and realignments could save the government in excess of $6.5 billion annually.

Twenty to 25 percent of military properties have excess capacity, DuBois said. But he cautioned that doesn't translate to closing 20 to 25 percent of all installations. Still, DuBois said when it comes to deciding which installations will close, "all installations are going to be judged equally."

"All installations will be required to provide data, the so-called data call," DuBois added. "There is no other way to approach this. As the secretary said, 'You wake up in the morning, and you don't say let's do a BRAC this year.' You must approach this in a comprehensive and objective fashion. All installations are on the table."

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