Story and photo by Devin Fisher
The assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment visited Fort Carson Jan. 27 to gain an understanding of the post’s sustainability and renewable energy strategies to help the Army achieve its future goals.
Katherine Hammack said the visit was in response to numerous recommendations, after becoming assistant secretary about six months ago, to travel to the Mountain Post to see its many environmental initiatives as she guides the Army to meet its “net-zero” strategy – generating as much resources as it consumes.
“Ever since I started, everyone was saying you have to get out to Carson, they’re doing wonderful things in Colorado and you have to talk to them about their sustainability strategy and their renewable energy strategy,” she said during a brief media opportunity prior to departing the Colorado Jet Center.
Hammack is the primary adviser to the Army secretary and chief of staff on all service matters related to installation policy, oversight and coordination of energy security and management. She is also responsible for policy and oversight of sustainability and environmental initiatives; resource management including design, military construction, operations and maintenance; base realignment and closure, privatization of Family housing, lodging, real estate and utilities; and the Army’s installations safety and occupational health programs.
During her visit, Hammack toured the Mountain Post, met with senior leaders to discuss daily operations, and recognized outstanding Soldiers and civilians involved with garrison operations. Highlights of the tour included the two-megawatt solar array, one of the largest of its kind in the Army, and the headquarters facility of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, the first facility on an Army installation to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold rating for new construction. Fort Carson is currently home to 15 gold-rated and 18 silver-rated facilities.
The visit went “exceptionally well,” Brig. Gen. James H. Doty, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, said noting the secretary complimented the post on being in the forefront of sustainable initiatives and many of its operations and understands issues challenging the post. “I think it couldn’t have gone better,” he said.
Doty said leadership delivered the message that Fort Carson’s mission is training and deploying Soldiers. “We’re actively engaged in the war fight, however, we are cognizant and supportive of being sustainable, energy-efficient and being good stewards of the environment.”
Hammack said Fort Carson’s sustainability strategy “really is a model for the rest of the installations to follow and to learn from.”
She noted one of her key objectives is to help the Army achieve a net-zero strategy.
“When we talk about energy we want to be able to generate the same amount of energy as we use, so it’s a net zero,” Hammack said. “When we talk about water … we want to consume as much as we are able to inject back into the aquifer. And waste, we don’t want to populate landfills, we want to reduce first of all the amount of waste generated, and then … recycle so that we reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.”
She commended Fort Carson and the local community on their partnership which leverages the best practices both on and off post, a bond Hammack said will need to remain strong as the amount of resources available declines.
The military budget is another area that will be leveling off, Hammack said. The Army budget ballooned from around $78 billion in 2000-2001 to nearly $240 billion today to support its war effort, but as the troops return home from Iraq and Afghanistan those numbers will also decline, she said.
As a result, Hammack said the Army will see a reduction in the number of Soldiers and a corresponding number of civilian reductions.
“No decisions have been made where the reductions will take place, nor an end state number. We want to ensure that we are able to appropriately staff areas such as Fort Carson to ensure that we are able to provide the right amount of support to our Soldiers and that we are able to serve the primary mission,” she said.
Hammack also addressed the ongoing debate of expanding the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
“If you look at our budgets for the next five years, there is no money in the budget for any expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site,” she said.
Doty said he is confident that the Mountain Post will not see a reduction of units or planned projects in the near future due to budget cuts.