Budget Cuts Impact Base Support Services at Naval Support Facilities

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Budget Cuts Impact Base Support Services at Naval Support Facilities


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Hours of operations at some recreational facilities at Indian Head and Dahlgren, to include the fitness centers (above) are being reduced effective next week as part of budget-cutting measures. (U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos/Released)
Hours of operations at some recreational facilities at Indian Head and Dahlgren, to include the fitness centers (above) are being reduced effective next week as part of budget-cutting measures. (U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos/Released)

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced March 2 that the Navy will go ahead with reductions in spending in order to meet the fiscal constraints imposed by the Budget Control Act commonly known as Sequestration. In an All Navy message to the Fleet, Mabus outlined a variety of reductions in operations, training and maintenance.

“The Budget Control Act [has] required setting in motion the automatic, government-wide cuts known as sequestration through the Department of the Navy,” Mabus wrote in his All Navy message.  “Given [the] reality and the associated impact of budgetary uncertainty imposed by an indefinite Continuing Resolution, the Department of the Navy intends to commence some reductions immediately.”

Mabus noted that reductions will be imposed Navy wide, affecting some Navy ship deployments, reducing humanitarian aid efforts, and imposing a gradual stand-down of flying time for at least three Fleet air wings.

For Navy's shore installations managed through Commander Navy Installation Command, the budget draw-down equates to a 10-percent reduction in funding for base operating support services. All Navy installations in Naval District Washington (NDW) are affected, to include Naval Support Activity South Potomac, which is responsible for providing a wide range of base support services for Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head. These services include police and fire protection, safety programs, air operations, and quality of life programs and facilities.

Maintenance, custodial services scaled back

NSASP's utilities and building and property maintenance functions are provided through Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington, which serves as the Public Works Department at both bases. "The services that are expected to change are in the areas of custodial, grounds maintenance, pest control and street sweeping," said Capt. Ken Branch, NDW regional engineer and commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington.

"Custodial will see reductions in restroom cleaning frequency, elimination of desk-side [trash] pickup and reduced floor care frequencies. Grounds maintenance will see larger changes in grass heights between cuttings, minimal irrigation to inhibit growth, but enough to prevent loss. Some areas may be allowed to return to a 'natural' state."

Branch added that high-sanitation areas will still receive preventative treatment, and control of nuisance pests will be in response to customer complaints. These actions, he explained, will be cost avoidance measures in the long run.

"Approximately $1.2 million in costs will be avoided in order to offset an equal amount of reduced funding for these services," said Branch.

The South Potomac Public Works Department has curtailed maintenance to only emergency or mission critical types of work until further notice.  Also beginning this month, Public Works crews at Dahlgren and Indian Head will implement energy cost-saving measures which include securing heating to buildings earlier than normal this season, as well as changing control set points for building air conditioning to 80 degrees once the cooling systems are activated later in the year.

Capt. Peter Nette, NSASP commanding officer, points out that other Navy-wide cost-cutting measures have been in effect for months. "Like everyone else, we've curtailed travel and training and other administrative expenses, and we're in a hiring freeze. These cost-cutting measures have an impact across all installations in the Navy, and with some level of consistency across all programs. 

Hours of operation cut for MWR facilities

"At this time we do not see an elimination of services, but rather a reduction," continues Nette. "Based on higher guidance and peak usage hours, my staff has put together a comprehensive plan to support the overall effort in reducing overall costs. However, as we continue to move forward, it is unclear whether we will see additional reductions or maintain this new baseline. 

"We will do everything feasible, though not necessarily popular, to minimize impacts to our ability to provide for the overall support to include safety and security of our bases' workforce and residents," adds Nette.

Spending cuts will affect the operation of NSASP's Fleet and Family Readiness Program (N9) at NSF Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head, reports program director Tom Kubalewski.

The Fleet and Family Readiness Program managed by Kubalewski includes all Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facilities and activities, the Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC), child and youth programs to include the bases' Child Development Centers and Youth Activities Centers, Navy Housing, and on-base food service operations to include Gray's Landing restaurant at Dahlgren and the Indian Head Galley.

"Starting next week [March 18] we will be cutting back on some of our MWR events and classes, and we will be reducing hours of operation for some of our facilities," reports Kubalewski. "But we don't intend to close any N9 facilities altogether."

And N9 facilities will be open every weekday, adds Kubalewski. "Even with a furlough in effect, we expect that we will still have a requirement to provide services throughout the week to Sailors and employees who will be off at different times."

For example, the hours of operation for the fitness centers will be reduced from 91.5 hours per week to 86.5 hours per week, a schedule change of about an hour per day. Similarly, the Dahlgren Library will scale back from 45 hours to 40 hours per week.

"The biggest hit we're taking is in our Liberty program," adds Kubalewski. The Liberty program provides recreational activities and outings for single military members residing at both Dahlgren and Indian Head. "Our Liberty Centers are going from 91 hours to 50 hours weekly, and the Navy won't be able to subsidize costs to military members participating in special events or trips."

Furlough decisions may have further impact

Even the furlough of federal civilian employees scheduled to begin in April is not expected to have a direct impact on Fleet and Family Readiness Programs, maintains Kubalewski. "At this time, furloughs apply to Appropriated Fund government employees. We expect our full-time staff will be able to keep facilities operating through the week."

Kubalewski adds, "A decision to include Non-Appropriated Fund employees -- the bulk of our MWR workforce -- in the furlough plan will have more of an impact on our ability to keep some facilities open."

The budget tightening means employees won't see as many featured events. "We won't be programming special events unless they're supported 100 percent by commercial sponsorship, or if we can run them at no cost," he said.

Regardless of these fiscal cutbacks, Kubalewski adds that N9 programs will still benefit from grants to support specific initiatives, such as the summer teen employment program. "We typically hire 10 to 15 teens at each installation to work with us through the summer, and we'll still be able to do that this year." 

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