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Sequester puts most demolition on hold

Apr. 25, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Air Force Demolition projects are being held up by budget cuts throughout the Air Force.
Air Force Demolition projects are being held up by budget cuts throughout the Air Force. (Air Force)
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AF offering unused buildings to other entities

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
And so it goes with excess Air Force property. As the service looks to get rid of unused property, it will offer buildings to other agencies who might gladly take them.
It’s a practice that has worked well over the years, as military bases across the country have downsized or shut down.
One example is at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., where the Air Force has partnered with Operation Walking Shield since the 1990s. The partnership has resulted in the transfer of 300 military housing units to an American Indian reservation, said Mark Coleman, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron real property officer. Coleman also is program manager for Operation Walking Shield, a Defense Department program that facilitates civilian military activities that address health care, infrastructure and housing needs on American Indian reservations.
It costs between $8,000 and $14,000 to move a house, but costs are covered by the local reservation.
“This is at no cost to the government,” Coleman said. “Basically, we do the transfer agreement and bills of sale, but the actual moving and everything are the responsibility of the reservation.”
The agreement has kept 24 million pounds of refuse out of the landfill, Coleman said.
The project will end when the last 70 houses are transferred, but Coleman said there might be opportunities to move other buildings to the community. Any building moves must be approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The base chapel at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., was recently transferred to the Dobbins Chapel Foundation, which will have a year to come up with funding to bring the chapel up to code without government dollars, according to a 94th Airlift Wing release. The chapel was slated to be demolished so the base could build an access road.

Plans to demolish unneeded Air Force property — eliminating one-fifth of the Air Force’s footprint by 2020 — have come to a screeching halt.

The Air Force will defer about 90 percent of its facility sustainment, restoration, modernization and demolition projects planned for this year because of sequestration. The postponement will continue if the across-the-board spending cuts are in effect next year and beyond, said Robert Gill, chief of the Air Force Civil Engineer Facility Management Division, in a statement.

As part of an initiative called 20/20 by 2020, the service plans to reduce by 20 percent the amount of owned, leased and Air Force-led joint base property by the end of this decade. The program is expected to save operation and maintenance dollars while meeting energy and water conservation goals.

But saving money requires an investment the Air Force is not able to make under sequestration, Gill said.

Last year, the Air Force spent $253 million to shrink the service’s property footprint by 7.6 million square feet. Since the initiative started, the Air Force has achieved 49 percent of its total demolition goals, said Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek in a statement.

The Air Force had planned to spend $21.7 million on 82 projects in 2013. Among the buildings that were scheduled to be demolished:

* Dorms at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; Robins Air Force Base, Ga.; Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.; Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.

* A family support center at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

* Airmen’s Attics at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Minot.

* A dining facility at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

* An old community center at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

* A payload assembly building at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

In addition to consolidating operations into what the Air Force calls “right-sized” facilities and demolishing those that do not meet the Air Force’s space criteria, the service has invested in reusing existing facilities for new missions and realigning the use of space with missions rather than building new structures, Stefanek said.

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“To achieve the remainder of the goal, engineers at Air Force installations will continue to identify infrastructure that is underutilized, or excess to mission needs and, where appropriate, include associated demolition requirements in their [Base Comprehensive Asset Management Plan],” she said. “Base-identified requirements then flow to the [major commands], where planners work to determine where the best opportunities exist across their MAJCOM portfolio for inventory reduction, maximizing return on investment.”

Any projects not executed before Sept. 30 will be deferred, Stefanek said. The president’s budget for fiscal 2014 includes about $3 billion for facility sustainment, restoration, modernization and demolition.

“The Air Force remains committed to the 20/20 by 2020 initiative. However, in this budget-constrained environment, we are balancing limited resources between mission requirements and supporting this initiative,” she said. “The Air Force will focus available funding on [facility sustainment, restoration, modernization and demolition] projects from a worst-first, mission-critical perspective, minimizing risk to mission and risk to airmen.”

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