Tough, But Necessary Choices for
By Del Eulberg, Major General (Ret.), USAF
in Washington D.C., which brought together the housing privatization partners, Department of Defense (DoD) leadership from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Service Secretariats, and Headquarters (HQ) Service staffs. This effort was in line with our basic mission. It has been a number of years since this group has gathered, and as you can imagine, much has changed and new challenges have emerged. The partners and DoD are now in the business of managing and operating residential communities to ensure they remain competitive with the housing market outside the installation. Many aspects of this process can be very challenging, and it is absolutely critical that the DoD leadership and our partners remain in lockstep if we are to make these 50-year deals financially viable and continue to save for the future.
As we look to the holiday season and the end of 2015, I know we all will reflect on the past year with gratitude for our blessings and recall a few of the challenges we have faced as individuals and families, as an association, and as a nation. I will be wrapping up the sixth year as your PHMA President and I can tell you that I feel nothing but gratitude for the jobs you do every day, regardless of what uniform you wear—military, civilian, or partner. I am humbled by your service to others.
As mentioned in the last President’s Message, PHMA hosted a forum on Sept. 15, 2015,
We discussed ideas on how to preserve the reinvestment accounts for preventive maintenance and capital improvements; how to right-size housing inventories given the current ongoing reductions in manpower by all the Services; the current financial market changes; the effects of the DoD drawdown on occupancy; and the reductions in housing allowances, just to name a few items. To learn more about the Housing Privatization Forum, read “All for One and One for All” on page 18 in the Special Section “2015: Year in Review.” I encourage you to read the article in order to better understand some of the challenges and opportunities that we all face in providing quality housing to our military families.
On another subject, we all know that the past four years have been a real challenge for our association with the cancellation of our annual Professional Development Seminar (PDS)—our major source of revenue and the most efficient way for us to accomplish our basic training mission. With this in mind, PHMA leadership and the PHMA Board have ensured that we stay focused on the right things: our mission, vision, and goals, as well as gauging our performance. Some examples of the progress we have made include the following:
- offering online training classes
- revalidating class content to ensure Service-specific needs are met
- providing training at the regional or installation level
- increasing PHMA and chapter membership value
- reviewing our outreach to sustaining members
- revamping Defense Communities in content and revenue from marketing.
We also have had to make some difficult choices the past few years, as we have reduced staff and salaries and have continually focused on reducing operating expenses.
As an association, we were fortunate to have a reserve account that we could rely on for the past four years, as expenses continued to be greater than revenue. We have seen a 25 percent drop in membership due to the cancellation of a PDS; reductions in product vendors advertising in Defense Communities; reductions in government positions managing the housing portfolio due to the success of the housing privatization; and general reductions of HQ staffs. Unfortunately, we now have to make further reductions to the PHMA staff as well as salaries, suspend our annual scholarship program, and reassess our annual awards program to further reduce costs. These changes are not easy but they are necessary. We also are working with our legal counsel to revise the Articles of Incorporation to transition PHMA from a trade association to an educational association. This effort will allow us to work more closely with MHLI going forward, and, at this point, this change should be transparent to our membership.
We will continue to advocate for a PDS in fiscal year 2016 with senior Service leadership because the training and networking is essential, as witnessed and stated at the forum. The benefits of the recent privatization forum highlight the need for everyone at every level to understand the issues and challenges we face. PDS is a great venue for making that happen as well as for providing the most cost-effective training available for both government and privatization partner housing teams. God Bless.
Del Eulberg is Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. General Eulberg retired from the Air Force in 2009 as The Civil Engineer, HQ USAF, where he was responsible for installation support for 166 installations worldwide.