National Guard September 2011 : Page 30
A Building Problem By Ron Jensen Guard units have some of the latest vehicles and equipment. Unfortunately, many also have facilities designed for the force that fought in the Korean War HEN THE SNOW melts or the rain falls pell-mell, the ﬂoor of the motor pool at the home of the Colorado Army National Guard’s 147th Brigade Sup-port Battalion in Boulder, Colo., turns to mud. That’s what happens when dirt gets wet. But an earth ﬂoor in the motor pool is not the only problem with the facility built when the commander in chief was former Guardsman Harry Truman. It has no climate control, so inefficient window air conditioners hum along in the summer and space heaters roar through the Rocky Mountain winter. There is inadequate toilet space for 210 soldiers and no separate facility for females. The square footage is less than half of the Army requirement, especially the building that houses A Company. The chipping paint on the exterior contains harmful asbestos. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on. Insuf-ﬁcient storage and vault space. No simulation training area. Inadequate security. Still, the Guardsmen persevere. “They’re soldiers. Just like anything else, they do the best with what they have,” says Lt. Col. Brian Mayard of the Colorado National Guard’s W 30 | Na tional Guard
A Building Problem
Guard units have some of the latest vehicles and equipment. Unfortunately, many also have facilities designed for the force that fought in the Korean War
WHEN THE SNOW melts or the rain falls pell-mell, the floor of the motor pool at the home of the Colorado Army National Guard's 147th Brigade Support Battalion in Boulder, Colo., turns to mud.
That's what happens when dirt gets wet.
But an earth floor in the motor pool is not the only problem with the facility built when the commander in chief was former Guardsman Harry Truman.
It has no climate control, so inefficient window air conditioners hum along in the summer and space heaters roar through the Rocky Mountain winter. There is inadequate toilet space for 210 soldiers and no separate facility for females.
The square footage is less than half of the Army requirement, especially the building that houses A Company. The chipping paint on the exterior contains harmful asbestos.
The list, unfortunately, goes on and on. Insufficient storage and vault space. No simulation training area. Inadequate security.
Still, the Guardsmen persevere.
"They're soldiers. Just like anything else, they do the best with what they have," says Lt. Col. Brian Mayard of the Colorado National Guard's construction and facilities management office in Denver. "They just make it work."
Guardsmen in Boulder are not alone in making do with old facilities.
Consider the one in Takoma, Wash., that was built in 1909. The leaky roof and toilets are just the start of a list of problems.
Lt. Col. Tim Walker, the director of the construction facilities and maintenance office for the Washington state Guard, says the state has armories in 34 locations with an average age of 60 years.
"They've come pretty close to the end of their productive lives," he says. It's a familiar refrain across the Guard.
"Army Guard facilities are aged, I think is the best way to put it," says Lt. Col. Don McFadden, chief of strategic plans and education branch at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va.
He says 40 percent of the Army Guard's 2,880 readiness centers are more than 50 years old. Such buildings outlive their usefulness at age 67.
"They're getting there rapidly," McFadden says.
Between 1950 and 1960, after NGAUS won the first federal funding for armory construction, the Army Guard built 781 facilities, according to McFadden. But since then, the comparative funding for facilities has been about half what it was during that time. So, a lot of old buildings are still in use, and many have fallen into disrepair.
"Being able to replace our facilities has been a challenge for the last 50 years," he says.
Right now, he says, the Army Guard has identified $45.1 billion worth of needed facility replacement. But the annual budget for this work has averaged about $400 million the last 10 years, a figure skewed higher by a record $874 million this year.
The Air Guard has similar deficiencies. Ben Lawless, the chief of the operations division for the installation and mission support office at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., says the annual backlog of $500 million in needed construction stays pretty constant.
"Obviously, we're not being funded at that level," he says.
Instead, the money for Air Guard construction, about $195 million in 2011 with similar amounts for the next two years or so, he says, only pretty much fixes or replaces facilities at the same pace others wear out.
"We are meeting the mission," he says, but $250 million annually "is where we need to be."
But in a time of dwindling resources, no one expects the Pentagon to pump billions into the Guard to replace, repair and renovate everything from motor pools to jet hangars.
The 54 adjutants general have an idea, however.
Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, the Iowa adjutant general, says the Adjutants General Association of the United States (AGAUS) is proposing establishment of a congressionally funded account for facilities much like the one that has helped the Guard increase its equipment holdings.
Since 1982, the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account (NGREA) has enabled Congress to directly address Guard equipment needs.
"We would like to see something similar for the facilities side," says Orr, who is the chairman of the AGAUS facilities committee.
The first step, Orr says, is to get a handle on exactly how much is needed. The figure he inherited when he took the spot on the facilities committee was $1.5 billion annually for the next 20 years, a staggering amount and an amount no one expects the Guard to receive.
Plus, he's not sure it is the correct figure. So, AGAUS initiated a program that will, over the course of a few years, identify as closely as possible the exact requirements in each state. A survey of facilities in Virginia will be done soon and then expand to more states.
"The Army has done this for years," he says.
The next step would be for adjutants general to testify before congressional committees, something they rarely do. But their testimony would include the relationship between Guard readiness and facilities and push the need for a NGREA-like account to fund them.
"In a declining of resources, now is the time to plan," Orr says.
He says the Guard has closed 682 armories since 1988, both because they had worn out and because demographics didn't justify leaving them open.
"We're going to have to consolidate. We're going to have to regionalize," he says.
He says Iowa has closed 12 armories in the last 10 years.
Orr notes the irony in asking for the NGREA-style fund for construction. NGREA has been so successful in acquiring new equipment for the Guard that the states do not have the facilities to properly store and maintain it.
The maintenance shops, he says, were built in the 1950s for jeeps and 2½-ton trucks, not today's heavier trucks and Humvees.
"They're wider. They're taller. They're longer," he says. And they don't fit in many Guard facilities.
Plus, he says, old armories have insufficient space for the sensitive equipment used today, such as nightvision goggles.
McFadden says the Army Guard has a shortfall of 14.2 million square feet for readiness centers and 3.4 million square feet for maintenance facilities.
Many facilities are not up to the anti-terrorism security standards because they were built on small parcels of land and the walls of buildings are often property boundaries. There is no room for expansion or to create greater security measures.
Walker talks of a cavalry unit in Puyallup, Wash., so squeezed for space that it has to park its equipment 40 to 50 miles from its armory and then retrieve it during drill before going to the field.
"Are we maximizing our training time doing that? No," he says.
Trying to find space for modern equipment is even a bigger problem in the Air Guard. Renovating a 1950s-era hangar for an F-22, for example, is impossible, says Lawless.
"The only option is to tear them down and build new," he says.
When the Hawaii Air Guard's 154th Wing received the F-22 Raptor last year, Lawless says, "there was no building we could renovate."
He says the Air Guard builds new facilities with future weapons systems in mind, hoping they can "stand the test of time."
"We're not custom designing facilities to one mission," he says. "A hangar is not an F-22 hangar. It's an aircraft hangar."
It will be a few years, of course, before the AGAUS idea of a NGREAstyle fund can bear fruit, if it is, in fact, put in practice.
Until then, the Guard faces old adversaries for the military construction funds – the active-component Army and Air Force.
The road to construction funding is fairly straight and narrow. The states and territories prepare priority lists, that are vetted at NGB, which sends forward to the Defense Department the projects it has determined are most critical.
"The competition for new military construction . . . is driven off of data bases that are in most cases activecomponent generated," says Walker in Washington state.
He points out that his state is enduring a 10-year period, from 2004 to 2014 in which it will receive no money for construction.
"Literally, that's where we are," says Walker.
Orr notes that the active-component Army received $9.2 billion for military construction last year, but the Guard received less than 10 percent of that in a record year.
"Yet we are 51 percent of the force, 42 percent of the structure," he says. "They have built the Army out to the expense of the National Guard over the last 10 years."
Mayard points out that large Army bases such as Fort Carson in Colorado get more construction money in one year sometimes than the entire Army Guard receives.
"We don't receive the resources at the same proportion that we absorb the mission," he says.
Still, Mayard hasn't given up on replacing the facility in Boulder, giving the soldiers of the 147th Brigade Support Battalion a better place to work.
"Definitely, we want to do something for those guys," he says. "That's what the drive is in this office."
Ron Jensen can be contacted at (202) 408-5885 or at email@example.com.
OVER THE HILL Some of the National Guard's older facilities, such as the armory in Takoma, Wash., have great architecture and history, but they aren't functional for a 21st century force.
Washington National Guard
"Army Guard facilities are aged, I think is the best way to put it."
– Lt. Col. Don McFadden
Chief, Strategic Plans and Education Branch Army National Guard Readiness Center
"We don't receive [construction] resources at the same proportion that we absorb the mission."
– Lt. Col. Brian Mayard
Construction and Facilities Management Office Colorado National Guard
Modernizing National Guard facilities has long been a NGAUS legislative priority. It was association lobbying that led Congress to begin funding armory construction in 1950. More recently, the fiscal 2011 defense budget has nearly $1.1 billion for Guard construction projects, a record amount. NGAUS officials believe the figure is the result of the association's focus on the issue. Modernizing Guard facilities is again a NGAUS priority for the fiscal 2012 budget. The association also supports the Guard and Reserve Initiative to provide flexible options for critical infrastructure projects.
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/A+Building+Problem/817519/79476/article.html.