Army: Renovating moldy barracks is just the start of climate change preparations

The Army Materiel Command is working to proactively protect its facilities from the effects of mold and climate change, said Paul Schaefer, AMC’s deputy director for facilities, logistics and environmental management. Defense alone last week.

The Army created its Facilities Investment Plan in 2020 as a way to streamline and standardize the facility renewal process across hundreds of Army installations. The program has allowed the Army to more efficiently and consistently maintain buildings up to standards, which will become increasingly important as the number of natural disasters caused by climate change increases in the coming years, officials said.

“As extreme weather becomes more common, the Army must adapt its installations, acquisition programs and training so that the Army can operate in this changing environment and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Secretary of the Army Christine Warmuth said when the service released its climatic realization to plan.

The facilities improvement program came about when the Army “realized we needed to give our senior leaders a tool that wasn’t going to be so subjective,” Schaefer said. “History has shown that the squeaky wheel attracted attention. We wanted to put together a deliberative process that is repeatable and defensible” so that leaders can propose projects and AMC can award projects that align with Army priorities.

“FIP is a tool that will allow us to meet the most pressing needs in a timely manner,” he said.

For example, a standard FIP screening session identified problems at Smoke Bomb Hill Barracks in Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the Army in September announced plans for $115 million repair those objects. The same phase of the FIP review also identified a $59 million need repair barracks at Fort Hood.

Both renovations could prevent bigger problems in the future, Schaefer said. And even those two large-scale projects leave $826 million for other barracks improvements in the service.

“The Army is committed to spending a billion dollars a year on barracks,” Schaefer said, stressing that the dollar amount demonstrates how serious the Army is about putting people first and maintaining quality of life.

Schaefer was one of the senior officials who walked through Smoke Bomb Hill for the evaluation, and said the Army “determined that the barracks and the ventilation and air conditioning systems were not adequate. We determined that in order for our soldiers to remain safe, we needed to be proactive, and we got the soldiers out before it became a security issue.”

Schaefer said, “No one is going to be perfect, and the Army is willing to ‘own up’ to any problems it finds. But gosh, we’re going to fix it as soon as we can.”

The service has also specifically studied the ability of Army facilities to withstand the effects of climate change, Schaefer said, and so far the data looks promising.

Schaefer acknowledged that some military installations are very old. But overall, “we’ve built our facilities soundly,” he said, and he believes they have what it takes to “resist natural disasters.”

“We believe that many of our properties hold up just fine, short of a catastrophic storm like Tyndall [Air Force Base] experience,” Schaefer said, referring to the 2018 hurricane that nearly destroyed that base.

“The Army has not wavered in terms of our priorities: people, modernization and readiness … We’re doing a lot of really good things,” Schaefer said. “We care about our soldiers and our families.” Army: Renovating moldy barracks is just the start of climate change preparations

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