Energy security, 'reduced footprint' top priorities for lieutenant general

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 22, 2016) -- Recently-promoted Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham is the first officer in 10 years to serve as the assistant chief of staff for Installation Management without also serving as commander of Installation Management Command.

Bingham still has a lot on her plate, though. She oversees the planning of funding and development of management policy for more than 150 installations. That includes every property worldwide in the Army inventory.

The Army recently decided to split her present role from the other command, adding a new three-star general to its roster, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, to serve as commander of Installation Management Command, which is headquartered in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In that role, Dahl oversees the day-to-day management of about 68 Army installations.

That division of the commands, Bingham said, should allow both her and Dahl to focus better on their respective areas.

"Installation management is complex business," Bingham said.

Freed from day-to-day responsibility of managing those 68 installations, which required her predecessor to travel regularly between Fort Sam Houston and the Pentagon, Bingham can now focus on the development of regulations, programs and directives that support Soldiers and family members, as well as the funding of a wide array of properties and programs at a time when Army budgets are being pared.

Bingham said her top priority mirrors that of Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley: readiness.

For Army installations, that means ensuring that installations can serve as "power projection platforms" for the Army even under the worst conditions, such as during power outages from the civilian power grid, or natural disasters that could disrupt regular services like gas, water, sewage or trash collection.

"Energy security is becoming an area of increased focus," she said. "I see it ... as a form of force protection and mission assurance. So being able to secure our energy on our own posts, camps and stations and installations is critical. That's an area we are putting a lot of emphasis on. We have to make sure those installations are able to do their mission."

With budgets shrinking, manpower on Army installations is also shrinking, and Bingham would like to shrink the size of the Army's "footprint" accordingly. Her focus is part of the Army's ongoing "Reduce the Footprint" initiative that seeks reduce the overall of cost maintaining infrastructure to the Army by eliminating excess infrastructure, including buildings and entire properties.

Bingham estimates that about $450 to $500 million a year is spent Army-wide maintaining buildings on Army properties that are underused.

"Right now we are in fiscally-constrained times. So being able to garner back dollars on reducing excess infrastructure is important," Bingham said. "If you could imagine recouping that amount of money every year, and think about how we can invest that in the readiness of our Soldiers -- that's huge."

According to Army budgeting documents, the Army has requested funding for fiscal year 2017 for 19 combat training center rotations. A single such rotation costs the Army about $25 million. If estimated savings from infrastructure reductions were aimed entirely at force readiness, the Army could double the number of CTC rotations it currently funds each year.

Among Bingham's other responsibilities is to provide oversight of morale, welfare, and recreation programs as well as family support programs Army-wide.

According to Bingham, such programs sustain one million Soldiers, and 2.2 million family members across the Army. And with declining budgets, she is looking to identify efficiencies and build and strengthen partnerships to sustain that vital support for Soldiers and families.

"Realistically speaking, we won't be able to do everything at the same level that we used to do it," she admitted. "But I can assure you we will spare no effort to make sure that our Soldiers and their families have that quality of life that they so richly deserve."

She believes that partnerships with military service organizations offer one solution to maintaining continued support for Soldiers and their families.

"Any which way that we can partner to help retain as many of those programs we've had in the past, we are certainly going to do that," she said. "We've been doing that already. That's not a new initiative. Partnerships occur at every level on the installation."

Bingham has served in the Army for nearly 35 years, receiving her commission in August 1981 after graduating with a degree in management from the University of Alabama. Her first assignment in the Army put her at Fort Lewis, Washington, where she served as platoon leader of A Company, 9th Supply and Transportation Battalion, 9th Infantry Division.

Bingham has attended the U.S. Army Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, as well as the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

She was sworn in as the assistant chief of staff for Installation Management on June 29 and stepped into the role the following day. She is the Army's second African-American woman to make lieutenant general.