Decision to make joint military bases never saved any money like it intended, general says

Lt. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl

After a decade-plus of experimentation with joint military installations between service branches, the top installation officials within the US Army are suggesting the idea be scrapped.

While the joint base idea was proposed as a cost-saving solution in 2005 and has been lauded as an effective concept by the Government Accountability Office, Army officials such as Army Installation Management Command Lieutenant General Kenneth Dahl have determined that the idea has not only failed to save money, it also has proven to be a headache for military officials.

“I don’t buy the data that says we’re saving money, and I don’t know any senior commanders or other people who like it,” Dahl said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual “hot topic” conference on installation management. “[IMCOM] may be spending less money, but the mission units are probably spending more to do what they need to do, so I’m not sure we’re capturing the total costs, and our readiness may be suffering.”

For Dahl, the solution rests not in the current situation but would be best conducted as a new joint agency to combine all of the planning, budgeting, and management functions the joint branches perform independently within their headquarters, rather than allow each branch to run different services at once.

“Somebody’s got to man this thing, so it’s a matter of taking the best things from all of the services, running them up to the Department of Defense level, and eliminating the service proponecies for all of this inside the Pentagon,” he said. “The money to be saved is in the Pentagon and at the high level of enterprising, not picking 10 or 12 places and trying to find savings at the subordinate level.”

Lastly, Dahl claims that having joint forces on a base often impacts the culture of each installation’s home units, especially when they belong to different branches.

“There’s a human dimension to this. There’s a reason the Air Force has a different culture from the Army,” he said. “And when you try to run a joint base, you actually erode that culture, which is critical to their combat effectiveness.”

According to Federal News Radio, the new omnibus appropriations bill will give the military branches several billion dollars, with the Army receiving $3.5 billion in facilities sustainability, restoration and modernization funding to the Army for the remainder of 2018.

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