The Army's housing privatization program is in a "strategic pause," pending announcements of specifics on troop cuts, the service's chief of privatization initiatives said.

After the announcement is made within the next few weeks of how the Army will trim another 40,000 soldiers, privatization officials will look at where troops will be stationed and do an overall assessment of housing requirements, said Ivan Bolden, chief of the Army Public-Private Initiatives Division in the office of the assistant chief of staff for installation management.

Some building and renovation projects are on hold, such as the one at Fort Knox, Kentucky. More than 200 homes were scheduled to be built, but fewer people are stationed there after a brigade was inactivated last year.

Of the 2,500 houses in the privatized communities at Knox, only about 1,400 are occupied, Bolden said. "So why build 200 more homes?"

As Army officials and their privatization partners look at where soldiers will be stationed, more housing may be needed in some places, but other locations may need to get rid of excess infrastructure, he said.

For example, it might not make sense to spend $30,000 to renovate an older home if that base is no longer going to need those homes," he said.

Barracks privatization projects are active at five posts, and any expansion of that program is also on hold, he said.

Officials also are working with private partners to determine what effects a further cut in housing allowances would have. A proposal has been made to reduce BAH so that it covers only 95 percent of average rent and utility costs. Last year, Congress agreed to a 1 percentage point reduction in BAH coverage.

Privatization partners no longer include renter's insurance coverage in the monthly rent payment. At that time, Army officials asked companies to look at operating expenses for any efficiencies so that the BAH cut would be transparent to soldiers.

"So far, we've been successful," he said.

Now, possibly facing another four-point reduction, companies are being asked again to scrub their operating expenses. But such a move still would have some impact on troops and families, he said.

"There will be hard choices," such as possibly decreasing the frequency of trash pickups or mowing.

"We've asked the partners to sit down with their garrison command teams to ensure that whatever they do, it's a collaborative decision," Bolden said.

The companies will look at what they can provide with a 95 percent level of funding, and with a 90 percent level of funding, and talk to their garrison command teams about the level of service they can provide.

That kind of analysis has been done at Fort Riley, Kansas, "and it opened up eyes on the garrison command side," Bolden said.

For example, to decrease the number of maintenance workers, instead of responding to emergency work orders in four hours, it may take a day, he said.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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