Rather than cut programs, Army officials have developed a priority list to identify which programs can be safely downsized or cut at the base level -- and which cannot.
The list, known within Army Installation Management Command as the "bin chart," prioritizes programs into three categories.
"High priority" includes programs that the Army is legally mandated to provide, such as the Army Substance Abuse Program and the Exceptional Family Member Program or programs. "Moderate priority" includes programs like Army Family Team Building classes and the Strong Bonds marriage retreat program that could be downsized or eliminated with only a moderate impact on soldiers and families.
Downsizing programs on the "low priority" list would result in the least soldier and family impact, Army officials said Wednesday at the Annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C. Programs on that list include Army base golf courses, bowling alley facilities, arts and crafts and the local installation's support of the spouse scholarship program, My Career Advancement Accounts.
Officials finalized the three tiered system in 2014 after then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno asked the command to identify family programs that can be cut, they said. Rather than make cuts across the board, they instead suggested that base commanders be given the freedom to use the priority list to choose how to flex available funding depending on local installation need.
"Instead of making a list where we were going to cut any particular program area [we] came to the consensus that how we would divide these programs is based on risk to readiness," said Dee Geise, head of the soldier family readiness division at the command. "This provides levers to be able to operate within these program areas and the budget on the local level."
But the list system could be used by Army senior leaders to determine which programs to cut outright should the sweeping, congressionally mandated budget cuts known as sequestration continue, she said.
"The senior leaders may have to make a decision that this is something we may stop doing because there's only so much money," Geise said.
To make sure the lists are as fresh as possible, she said command officials are planning to redo it soon.
"We're going to go back to the drawing board with this bin list to make sure it's accurate," she said.
--Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.