Preliminary design work goes back at least nine years on a proposed academic building for the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks.
An April 1, 2008, story posted on The Sentinel website said an estimated $65 million project was on hold at a time when national security priorities were focused more on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, modernizing the force and paying for base realignment and closure initiatives elsewhere in the defense establishment.
Plans for an academic building were mentioned on Wednesday during a change of command ceremony saluting the outgoing garrison commander, Lt. Col. Greg Ank, and his senior adviser, Command Sgt. Maj. Nelson Maldonado Jr.
Both men said they were involved in updated planning for an academic building during their two-year stint at Carlisle Barracks.
Vincent Grewatz, civilian director of training for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, was a guest speaker for the ceremony that saw the transfer of authority to new garrison commander Sally Hannan and her adviser Command Sgt. Maj. Jamie Lethiecq.
Grewatz congratulated Ank for his work as the director of the post’s day-to-day operations. “He led the effort to complete major military construction and modernization plans for a new Army War College academic facility programmed for FY 2020,” Grewatz said.
Thomas Zimmerman, public affairs officer for Carlisle Barracks, attended the event Wednesday. “The comments made during the ceremony today were anticipatory and the decision making process is still underway,” Zimmerman wrote in an email to The Sentinel Wednesday afternoon.
A follow-up email, forwarded to The Sentinel Thursday morning, read:
“The guest speaker congratulated Lt. Col. Ank for the extensive work in developing plans and requirements for a new academic building that has been proposed for inclusion as a new military construction project in the defense budget in the 2020-2023 time frame. The project proposal is still in the review process.
“There is no current fiscal year defense program as the Secretary of Defense Strategic Review is still ongoing. However, the project is being considered for inclusion in the next program/fiscal year defense program. The Army prioritizes construction to maximize Army readiness and [is] currently assessing the Academic Facility project for prioritization against all Army MILCOM requirements. The prioritization effort will be briefed to Army senior leadership later this year and reflected in future budget request. The Army has not yet notified Congress of its intent to initiate planning and design work on this project.”
The 2008 Sentinel article had as its main focus a project underway at Carlisle Barracks to modernize housing for War College students and their families.
The story said Root Hall, the academic heart of the war college, might be replaced by a larger, more modern facility just across from Collins Hall. For that portion of the story, The Sentinel interviewed William Johnsen, the dean of academics at the War College in spring 2008.
“While plans exist for a new building, no funding exists,” said Johnsen, referring to a 10 percent conceptual design approved by the Department of the Army. “We will continue to seek funding.”
Root Hall is over capacity and lacks sufficient seminar space, Johnsen said in that article. The building was originally sized for 240 students, but changing demands had increased each class to about 340 students in 2008. In addition, the distance education program did not exist when Root Hall was built in 1967.
In spring 2008, Johnsen mentioned a new building sized for 350 to 400 students and designed with more flexible seminar spaces and improved ability to accommodate future technology. At the time, Johnsen said a simulation/war gaming room will be located adjacent to each seminar room offering the faculty greater flexibility to conduct simultaneous teaching and practical learning exercises.
The plan in spring 2008 was to build the new academic hall across from Collins Hall and then link the buildings with a pedestrian bridge. Collins Hall serves as a conference and war gaming center.
Johnsen said War College curriculum is designed to teach future strategic leaders creative problem solving, innovative thinking and the need to be adaptable to constantly evolving situations.
There was no way to forecast when funding would be available for the new building, Johnsen said. “It is competing with other interests right now. It is largely out of our hands.”
The Sentinel had follow-up questions to the statement Zimmerman emailed on Thursday morning. The questions sought the latest developments on the scope and cost of the building and asked for student enrollment trends going back 10 years.
Confirmation was sought on the need for the building and on the challenges of offering a 21st-century curriculum in a Cold War-era building.
“These are questions we just can’t answer yet,” Zimmerman responded.
The Army War College website includes a detailed history of Carlisle Barracks and its buildings. The post first became the host site of the Army War College in July 1951. The Class of 1952 numbered 152 officers. Within 15 years, the institution for strategic studies had outgrown its original academic building and transferred instruction to Root Hall in 1967.
The Sentinel reported in early June that nearly 400 officers and civilians graduated in the Army War College resident Class of 2017 — a figure more than double its first-year enrollment.
The college offers a 10-month resident course attended mostly by career Army officers, but including officers from every military branch, selected government agencies and International Fellows from countries friendly to the U.S.
The 2008 Sentinel article said a study had determined that it would be more economical for the Army to build a new academic building than conduct a major renovation of Root Hall. “We are looking for efficiency,” Johnsen said at the time. “We want to be good stewards of tax dollars.”
In spring 2008, The Sentinel reported there was no decision made on whether to demolish Root Hall.
“It may be suitable for some government or military operation,” said Lt. Col. Sergio Dickerson, the garrison commander in 2008.
With the future of the new building in limbo, Carlisle Barracks updated all 20 seminar rooms with modern equipment, new carpeting and a new coat of paint. Dickerson said in 2008 the post would continue to update Root Hall incrementally.