Local News

Springer Journal: More Military Base Closures...

Posted February 25, 2004

— Another round of base closures is on the horizon, but that is just where they are -- on the horizon. In spite of several e-mails circulating on the Web, there are no bases or installations which have already been selected.

For example,

a recent "hoax" e-mail listed

, among many others, Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro as being on the official list for base closures. That is simply

not true

!

We are still over a year from even having the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission appointed, let alone having finalized a recommended list to send to the president for approval or disapproval. But it is not too early to understand the BRAC process, nor is it too early for communities surrounding military installations to start preparing the defense of, and support for, their local installations.

The Secretary of Defense must (by law) submit a recommended list of base closures and/or realignment to the BRAC Commission by May 16, 2005. The Commission must then forward to the President their recommendations by September 8, 2005. The President has 15 days to either accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety. Should the president accept them, Congress then has 45 legislative days to accept or reject … again in its entirety. The "entirety" requirement is designed to reduce or maybe even eliminate political pressures on the BRAC commission.

Is it prudent to close military installations when we are fighting a global war on terror? I am one who believes it is necessary. We are spending valuable taxpayer dollars maintaining facilities with marginal return for the defense dollars expended. The war on terror has, among other things, created an urgent need for additional security of military facilities. Such things as security, infrastructure upkeep and modernization, day-to-day operating costs are absorbing dollars that could be used much more efficiently elsewhere in the DOD budget.

In spite of several prior rounds of base closings and realignments, the Department of Defense believes that as a nation we probably still have about 20 to 25 percent excess capacity in our defense infrastructure. We need to find ways of reducing this unnecessary and very costly overhead. The world has changed since the end of the Cold War. There are about 35 to 40 percent fewer weapon systems, and about 35 percent fewer men and women in uniform. There are also fewer bases as a consequence of the prior BRAC commissions' recommendations.

However, there are still too many underutilized facilities that need to be reduced, reconfigured for other/more missions or simply closed.

Closures are very difficult. I know of no congressman or community that has asked for its adjacent military facility to be closed. Jobs, businesses, schools, churches, real estate values, etc. are all impacted negatively when a military base shuts down… unless something good springs up in its place.

Closing an installation does not automatically mean that everything is shuttered or torn down. There are some incredibly positive results associated with some base closures.

For example, Charleston Naval Base in South Carolina was closed in the 1990s, but with some excellent community and federal support, over 4,500 jobs have been created on the former naval base.

Several decades ago, an Air Force base in central Pennsylvania was closed. Today the airfield segment is Harrisburg International Airport and home to a large Air National Guard unit. More importantly, it is also the Capitol Campus for Penn State University. There were existing dormitories, dining halls, a library, a medical clinic, recreational facilities, office complexes, etc. A university campus was a natural to absorb this facility which was no longer needed by the military. And the price was right!

Just like prior BRAC activities, there will be all sorts of rumors as to which installations are targeted for closure. Please remember this is BRAC 2005 we are talking about. The commission will be selected and submitted for U.S. Senate confirmation in March 2005.

We are more than 18 months away from the BRAC Commission forwarding their recommendations to the president for approval and follow on submission to the congress. Ignore the hoax e-mails and the wannabe insiders with the "real list."

The really "real list" right now includes ALL military installations in the United States and its possessions. All will be examined as a part of the BRAC 2005 process. Many will be dropped from the total list early on. Many will get close scrutiny by the individual services and the Department of Defense. The military value of each installation, along with many other factors, will determine the final BRAC recommendations.

Communities surrounding military bases should already be gearing up to defend their interests. My experience tells me that many elected officials and citizens agree that base facilities can be reduced and/or eliminated … but "not in my backyard." To most of us the plusses stemming from economic and social factors associated with adjacent military facilities greatly outweigh the negatives such as aircraft and artillery noise emanating from these facilities.

North Carolina is blessed with many superb military installations which host supremely valuable defense missions and activities. The military men and women assigned to these bases enjoy the tremendous support of the adjacent civilian communities. Statewide, these installations pour an estimated $18 billion economic value into the communities annually.

North Carolina's military bases contribute significantly to the communities and state … more importantly they are an indispensable asset to our nation's defense team.

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