JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, Joint Base San Antonio and 502nd Air Base Wing commander, hosted three town hall meetings July 17, July 18 and July 24 at JBSA-Lackland, JBSA-Randolph and JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, respectively, where he gave a personal introduction and discussed sequestration and the impact of fiscal constraints with location residents.
Though the challenges JBSA faces are prominent, the hopeful general is far from discouraged when it comes to working with his team to develop a solution.
"We can no longer do things how we did them in the past," LaBrutta said. "Some people say this is a 'new normal,' but I disagree. Sequestration and furloughs are not normal - this is a new reality."
Quick and uncomfortable decisions need to be made, he said.
"When we became Joint Base San Antonio in 2010, we were given a temporary budget protection, which allowed certain things to happen without our budget being affected," LaBrutta said.
"When the protection was lifted in 2013, Joint Base San Antonio became just like every other installation in the Air Force, including the way our budget is treated."
When sequestration took effect, Air Education and Training Command officials modified the budgets of AETC installations, including JBSA.
"This modification decreased Joint Base San Antonio's 2012 budget from $285 million to $186 million for 2013," LaBrutta said. "Because of this, we had to make very difficult, yet necessary decisions on what we offer and what we need to adjust."
Despite a nearly $100 million reduction, LaBrutta said it isn't going to stop there.
"We don't have a firm number yet, but as you know, sequestration doesn't seem to be going away any time soon," he said. "As a result of that, our budget is going to be further reduced with a projected budget deduction of $40 million for fiscal year 2014."
JBSA residents can also expect to see a difference in several base services, as civil engineering funds, the largest part of the JBSA budget controlling services such as facilities cleaning and lawn care will be cut substantially.
Community members were encouraged to take an active role in the upkeep of JBSA, by policing themselves and each other to help ease the strain of the sequester and maintaining a foundation of togetherness through mutual cooperation, said Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, deputy commanding general for operations at JBSA-Ft. Sam Houston at the July 24 meeting.
"No matter what happens with sequestration, this is our house, and we have a responsibility to take care of it, and that goes for family members, service members and civilians," Wiggins said, as he praised members of the neighborhood watch program for stepping up to help the community.
LaBrutta said working with the functional managers at each location is going to be the key in making important decisions for fiscal year 2014.
"I'm a firm believer each one of our locations is different," he said. "When it comes time to make decisions, we need to remember each location has different populations, demands and missions."
While the 502nd ABW must make critical and seemingly harsh cuts, LaBrutta vowed to evaluate the impact of his decisions and try to decrease the strain where possible. A few examples include adjusting the hours at the child development center and opening previously closed pools and fitness centers to decrease overcrowding.
While he cannot ensure what the future holds for other base functions, core mission requirements are the top priority for JBSA.
"We are going to look at some of the things we do that aren't part of our core missions and make adjustments from there," LaBrutta said.
Process improvement is going to be a step held at high importance for the joint base, he said.
On a lighter note, LaBrutta and members of JBSA leadership discussed ways they are trying to lighten the burden on both civilian and military members affected by the furlough.
At all JBSA locations, force support facilities are offering extensive discounts to civilian employees.
Also, a Freedom center, which was approved several years ago and will be built with funds allocated from a prior fiscal year, is set for construction at JSBA-Ft. Sam Houston in early 2014. This facility, designed to resemble Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss Army Post in El Paso, will feature a ten-screen, first-run movie theater, open-air shopping complex and more.
"There are a lot of challenges ahead," LaBrutta said. "I know it's going to be different, but I'm an optimist. We may have to do less, but we will not do it less well."