By LUKE ELLIOTT
U.S. Army Installation Management Command
Since the summer of 2012, personnel from Army installations around the world have worked to change the way barracks are managed across the Army. The First Sergeants Barracks Program 2020 puts the responsibility of providing barracks management and ensuring good order and discipline back in hands of the Army units.
“The core principles of FSBP 2020 are to support the mission, take care of Soldiers and use resources wisely,” said Connie Glenn, chief, Housing Division, Headquarters, U.S. Army Installation Management Command. ”We realigned the roles of the garrison and mission units as a means to standardize barracks management worldwide and reduce costs.”
FSBP 2020 is a program implemented by the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management and IMCOM. Its goal is to see that barracks are managed through the military units and noncommissioned officer channels, with ongoing support from the IMCOM garrison personnel.
“By the end of 2012, units moved to the forefront as the face of barracks management when they assumed an increased responsibility for the day-to-day management of barracks operations,” said Glenn. “Garrison staffs fell back to a more supportive oversight role, providing units with expertise in property management, training, mentoring and to serve as the liaison between the units and the garrison.”
To develop the plan, IMCOM activated an FSBP 2020 task force comprised of experts from IMCOM Headquarters, OACSIM and 12 installations from around the world. Each garrison also created an internal team to provide support and technical advice
as the plan to transfer barracks management responsibilities back to the units was being developed. Officials say the plan is a major shift in the barracks management paradigm and it was a lot to accomplish under a short deadline.
“Getting unit-level military leadership back in the barracks is a good thing,” said Mark Hjuler, acting chief, Unaccompanied Personnel Housing Branch, Housing Division, Headquarters, IMCOM. “Noncommissioned officers need to be in the barracks checking on the living conditions and morale and welfare of their Soldiers.”
Historically, it was commonplace for noncommissioned officers and individual units to manage the barracks where their Soldiers lived. It became apparent in 2007 that conditions in some of the Army’s barracks had deteriorated to an unacceptable level. In addition, the Army was also in the process of investing billions of dollars in barracks improvements and construction. This led the Army to reassign responsibility of barracks management functions to the garrison staff.
According to Glenn, by 2012, the growth in the costs to the Army made garrison management of the barracks no longer sustainable.
“Garrisons across the installation management community have done a fine job managing these barracks while living up to our commitment to ensure Soldiers have high quality living quarters,” said Hjuler. “Now it is time to put the NCOs back in charge where they belong.”
Staff Sgt. Margarita Thomas, barracks manager with the 31st Combat Support Hospital, assumed her part of the new management plan at Fort Bliss, Texas.
“We (NCOs) have a better understanding of who is living in the barracks and exactly where they are living, as well as the conditions they are living in,” said Thomas. “The Soldiers really like having one of their own to come to for issues.”
The program is designed to help the NCO stay more involved in their Soldiers well-being.
“There are a lot less doors to knock on to get services requested or address room assignments,” said Thomas. “Instead of going to an outside agency, they are able to come directly to me.”
Despite handing the management of the barracks back to the military units, garrisons across the Army Installation Management Community still have a large role to play to include providing oversight of accompanied housing, managing other installation facilities, and providing resources, support and training for the units who are assuming barracks management.
“FSBP 2020 is designed to give units the resources, training and responsibility while ensuring the quality of life standards are met,” said Glenn. “NCO leadership, with IMCOM guidance, is critically important to the program’s success. We have to ensure standards and barracks quality so that the garrison housing divisions continue to serve as the primary source of on-the-job training, oversight, quality assurance and mentorship to the military units.”
At Fort Bliss, the Garrison Command’s Single Soldier Branch provided the initial training to the units and the Soldiers assuming the management duties.
“We provide ongoing occupancy maintenance training as transition of responsibilities occurs within the units,” said Barbara Lehman, chief of the Single Soldier Housing Branch, Fort Bliss DPW. “We also conduct stakeholder meetings, which serve as an additional training forum and a way for Soldiers managing barracks to get help with issues.”
The branch also provides area managers who will conduct ongoing site visits and help unit barracks managers work through issues.
“They have been very helpful,” said Thomas, who is responsible for 122 barracks rooms at Fort Bliss. “They also hold monthly meetings, which help us stay up to date with the latest information.”
To help in this training effort, OACSIM and IMCOM released a document in January called the First Sergeants Barracks Program 2020 Handbook. The handbook outlines the program and serves as a guide to managing and operating an Army barracks building. The document explains roles and responsibilities, quarters eligibility, key management and control, facility maintenance, furnishing management, property loss and damages, inspections and many other topics.
“This is a great document,” said Hjuler. “When I was a first sergeant, I didn’t have a document like this.”
While the program is working through some kinks, a huge part of the process of transitioning these responsibilities back to units and NCOs has been completed. Since the summer of 2012, 52 of the 74 IMCOM installations have migrated basic barracks management responsibilities to military units.