Prudent cuts or bathroom roulette? New savings require careful aim

Friday - 10/12/2012, 2:00am EDT

The post-Iraq reductions in Defense Department spending call for a leaner, more mobile military. Budget cutters have pledged to support and enhance warfighter capabilities while cutting back on nonessentials. To that end, Navy civilian and military personnel at all shore installations will ring in the New Year with new limits on services, ranging from bathroom cleaning to reduced snow-removal and grass-cutting operations.

The planned changes may mean a return to the days before the all-volunteer military, when enlisted soldiers, sailors and airmen routinely performed chores now largely tasked to private contractors. The drawdown in housekeeping services also applies to tenant commands.

Locally, the Washington Navy Yard is modifying its COLS (Common Output Level of Services) to redefine what services will be offered and how often. For example, instead of cleaning restrooms on a daily basis the plan is to clean them only three days per week.

Civilian and military personnel will have to pick up after themselves. "Employes will be required to remove their own trash to central trash locations," according to a notice emailed to employees last week.

Grass will not be cut as often.

Of concern to some employees is the new rule which says that snow removal will be limited to "mission essential areas." That is, "main roads to provide emergency vehicles the ability to travel across the base. Sidewalks will generally not have snow removal. Flat parking areas will not have snow removal."

Spot checks with some Navy civilians here reveal they are either shrugging it off, didn't know about the changes or, in some cases, are angry.

One worker said he was planning to bring a snow shovel and rock salt to work during wintertime. Another civilian predicted the limited snow-removal policy would be lifted "the first time we have an ice storm and some flag-rank officer busts his butt."

Many of the changes will have to be worked out with existing contractors who, in some cases, will do much less and earn much less.

One of the Navy Yard's 3,000 occupants called the proposed changes "unsanitary and unsafe."

"If I thought any ... of the savings would go to the warfighter, I would support them," she said.

She pointed to the time-honored fiscal year use-it-or-lose-it spending practice, one directorate bought "all new furniture for an incoming senior executive" and redid a conference room. She said savings could be made in other areas — including retirement parties — adding it would be "more prudent to trim these niceties than it is to jeopardize the sanitation and safety of our employees..."

A Navy officer not directly involved with the program said "I seriously doubt this will present sanitation problems."


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Cleopatra is purported to have credited pickles for her beauty.

(Source: MentalFloss)


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