Lawmakers pressed Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville about the Army’s slim fiscal year 2021 budget request for barracks construction and renovation during a Tuesday meeting of the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said the Army is “never going to do $10 billion in 10 years” unless the service requests more funding for barracks overhauls.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston unveiled a barracks overhaul plan last year, publicly committing the force to spending $9.6 billion by fiscal 2030 in order to eliminate substandard buildings. The initiative has long been one of Grinston’s top priorities.
“Our goal is, by 2030, we are not going to have any Q4 or Q3 barracks in the United States Army,” Grinston said during the Association of the United States Army conference in October.
But is the money there?
The Army’s fiscal year 2021 budget request has the service taking a $3.6 billion funding cut overall, and senior leaders have emphasized that they’ve had to make significant cuts in order to protect the service’s prized modernization projects.
Military construction — including barracks projects — faced deep spending reductions compared to the previous fiscal year.
“We have done everything we can to protect [our] modernization priorities,” said McConville. “There’s other things that are not going to get funded that we would like to do. We have challenges with barracks.”
Speier suggested the service had prioritized poorly in cutting the barracks funds.
“There’s only been a request for $262 million for [barracks in fiscal year 2022],” said Speier. “It suggests there isn’t the commitment to making [barracks] a priority.”
Wormuth said she would “look carefully at” the barracks overhaul plan, but it was not clear whether the Army would come back and request more funds to execute the initiative.
Other lawmakers pushed the barracks issue as well, highlighting issues at Fort Campbell, Fort Bliss and Fort Hood.
One of them, Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., told Wormuth and McConville about how his son — a soldier in 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division — lives in moldy barracks.
“My office is getting…pictures texted to us about once a month at minimum about [those barracks],” he said. “Take a look at what those barracks look like and ask yourself…if you’d want your son or daughter in there.”
Grinston’s public affairs team did not immediately respond to questions from Army Times about the status of the barracks overhaul initiative.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.