As many of you are aware, we face historic fiscal uncertainty. In response, we must continue to prioritize how we spend our money here at Fort Bragg. The budget sequestration plan calls for a 10-year reduction of $1.2 trillion in government spending, half of which will come from the defense budget and the other half from the non-defense budget. Within the Department of Defense community, we expect to see $46 billion less in our budget this year, which drives tough cuts across DoD, to include the pending furlough of civilian employees. Specific to Fort Bragg, we could experience an annual $190 million impact to our local economy, so we can expect significant change to our “status quo.”

What will not change is our ability to fully prepare Soldiers and units for their assigned missions in support of our Nation’s global and domestic commitments. We will balance our fiscal responsibilities with our non-negotiable commitment to mission readiness and our responsibility to care for our servicemembers, Families, civilian work force and retirees. We will work smartly to apply constrained resources in order to limit impacts to readiness, while sustaining vital programs and services for our servicemembers, their Families, the civilians working at Fort Bragg and retirees.

However, we face tough decisions and changes to our previous “norms.” We can expect reduced access to services as we work through the impact of sequestration on the Fort Bragg community. Over the past few months, leaders across the installation have worked diligently to review what we do and how we do it, and to identify prudent cost-saving measures. We will continue to provide the best services we can while applying reduced funding levels across diverse mission requirements.

While we’re considering hundreds of potential impacts, we’ve identified several areas for immediate implementation. Examples include: closure of one dining facility and reduced serving hours in several others; closure and reduced operating hours at select Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Centers (Cleland Ice Rink and Sports USA); reducing utility expenses (building closures aligned with furlough and/or weekends/holidays; powering off stadium lights during non-peak periods; post-wide “smart” energy conservation tied to non-mission periods); increased reliance on military skills where appropriate to offset contract cancellations (selected supply and maintenance services at Directorate of Logistics); and significant curtailment of office custodial service contracts. While not inclusive, these represent examples of near term actions we’re preparing to implement, pending resolution of our current fiscal uncertainty.

Even before the onset of sequestration, reduced funding this year drove cost transference from contracted services to Soldier-skilled labor, commonly called “Borrowed Military Manpower” — missions like security guards at our access gates and Soldiers helping run our Tax Center. We already commit nearly 1,900 Soldiers monthly to perform base support type missions. We expect fiscal constraints could drive this demand up by 50 percent. As a result, we’re tightening the task priority for the use of Soldier skill support. Examples include: shortening the duration of our Tax Center operations from June to the end of April; seeking volunteer support for school crossing guards; reducing the frequency of post and training area clean-up details.

Regarding hospital services, Womack Army Medical Center will continue to provide all existing primary and specialty care services, with an emphasis on those programs that support the readiness of our servicemembers. Many Family members and retirees (and their Families) who receive primary and specialty healthcare off post may now be required to receive that care at Womack Army Medical Center. For our customers, this could result in longer wait times between initial medical screenings and follow-on specialist appointments.

Finally, and toughest of all, we will implement the directed DoD-wide furlough of most civilian government employees, tentatively looking at 22 discontinuous furloughed days. We anticipate the furloughs will start in late April. All employees will receive a minimum of 30 days written notice prior to the start of the furlough. We will keep you responsively informed as we work through this extremely complex and impactful process. We are working now to synchronize furloughs in order to minimize their impact on Soldiers, Families and our other customers.

In terms of post-wide visible impacts of the furlough, some examples include possible commissary closure one day each week; reduced access to Army Community Service and Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation services; longer wait times for medical screenings, prescription refills and non-emergency appointments. Despite the pending furlough, we will still meet crisis response, emergency service and provide superb medical care for our servicemembers, Families and customers.

As we work through the challenges associated with optimizing constrained resources, we’re committed to minimizing the impact of cuts in affected programs and activities, while maintaining open and transparent communications with all those affected. If we determine it is best to change how we do business in a certain area, we will provide as much advance notice as possible.

I appreciate the sacrifices being made each and every day by those who live and work at Fort Bragg. Thanks for your service to Fort Bragg and to our Nation. Together we will continue to accomplish our vital missions and support one another.

Airborne, All the Way!