Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) is a huge part of military family life. MWR programs in different branches provide much needed support and services to service members and their families.
MWR typically provides staffing and funding for libraries, pools, arts and crafts centers, woodworking shops and auto hobby centers. Other support programs include sports and recreation programs for adults and children. This could include team sports and physical fitness centers on many bases. MWR also funds on-base child development centers (CDC), youth center, teen center and other youth programs.
There will be a $105 million cut in the Army MWR budget in FY 2017.
This is in addition to a separate 23% workforce reduction over 2 years in Army Community Service Centers. These cuts could result in the closure of some facilities and programs. In addition, the budget cuts could result in hours being reduced or fees increased. Army soldiers and their families are the most impacted by these cuts. The cuts took effect on October 1.
The garrison commander will determine how cuts are applied at each base. This means that services and resources impacted will be varied by location. Army families should expect to feel the effects in calendar year 2017.
Army officials, including Lt. Gen Kenneth R. Dahl of Army Installation Command Management, have committed to maintaining CDC funding.
Many Army posts have already been readjusting services and programs for the last 5 years. Some bases have been working to offset costs through investing in programs. The investments ensured that the programs were either profitable or breaking even. Those that did not meet this benchmark were removed or totally revamped.
Outdoor recreation, arts and crafts, and auto skill shops are most likely to be affected by these cuts. Fitness centers could also see reduced hours and staffing.
Volunteers may be able to staff some programs. However, the program structure would need to allow volunteer support. This would allow some services to continue operating, even with the budget cuts.
The cuts should not affect remote or isolated duty stations where comparable services are not available off-base.
Four Army posts should expect to see impacts from the MWR cuts in the near future.
Fort Carson, Colorado:
The 4th Infantry Division will continue to provide staffing coverage for gyms and fitness centers. There will be slight, $1 or less, increase in fees for some programs. The Friday Night Date and Caring Saturday programs are also slated to be reduced. MWR funds both programs. Programs that are costly or have low turn-out are also on the chopping block.
Fort Huachuca, Arizona:
MWR is cutting $500,000. Ammo sales and weapon rentals will stop at the Sportsman’s Center. Skeet and trap shooting, plus Saturday Range 3, will still be available for people who bring their own weapons. There is no word about additional cuts.
Fort Jackson, South Carolina:
This base will see significant cuts in MWR programs and services. One fitness center will completely close. The other 3 centers will be open for 90 hours weekly. The library will be open 5 days instead of 7. One pool will close. MWR funded recreation trips are going to be completely cut. The auto hobby center will be open 4 days instead of 5.
Fort Sill, Oklahoma:
Fort Sill is facing a 25% cut in taxpayer funding. The library’s hours will be reduced. There will also be new fees for the pools, outdoor recreation and special events or programs.
Will other military branches be impacted by MWR cuts?
The budget cuts will also impact joint service bases where Army MWR has the lead. This includes bases that previously had both or all branches providing MWR programs, but switched to have these services provided only by the Army.
The Navy has also made cuts to its MWR programs. Many bases have closed art and craft centers, wood shops and auto centers. There are no additional changes predicted or anticipated this year.
The Marine Corps has not scheduled any cuts to its MWR programs this year. However, the service will continue to look at services and programs.
The Air Force has not released information about potential MWR service cuts.
While these services do not plan to cut services at this time, MWR programs could be changed or removed in the future.