The Macon Telegraph has produced one excellent report & update on BRAC as it relates to Georgia.
Bush nominates BRAC panel
Expected to dwarf the four previous base closing rounds in terms of scope and impact, BRAC 2005 shifted into high gear Tuesday as President Bush sent his nominees for the base closing commission to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.
The nine-member panel - consisting of former military, executive and legislative leaders - must be up and running by May 16 when the Defense Department releases its recommended list of bases for closure or realignment. The commission then will have less than four months to evaluate the list, possibly add additional bases and submit final recommendations to the president.
Bush has nominated former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi of California to chair the commission.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican whose 1st District includes Robins Air Force Base and four other military installations, said he was cautiously optimistic.
"It appears that an impartial panel has been nominated and I anticipate the process will be fair and thoughtful," he said in a Tuesday news release.
"Bases will be evaluated by their military value and our bases are in good positions. They all have strong infrastructure, new missions and outstanding community support."
Kingston was particularly encouraged with the nomination of James Hansen, a friend and former Utah congressman. "Not only is Jim Hansen a fair and reasonable guy, he is also very experienced in the issues facing our bases," he said. "He served on the House Armed Services Committee for 20 years and represented an Air Force depot, a military training range and an Army base. This background should be extremely helpful to the panel and to those of us in southeast Georgia."
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said in a statement that the nominees "have a tremendous job ahead of them and I know each one is committed to being fair and objective."
Also in a Tuesday statement, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., said, "I'm confident this commission will recognize the critical role played by Robins, (and forts) Stewart and Benning in our national defense strategies."
One of the nine commission nominees is a native Georgian - retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude Kicklighter. The 36-year military veteran is currently the assistant secretary for policy and planning at the Department of Veteran Affairs. He is a native of Glennville and holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Mercer University.
The only nominee with Air Force ties is retired Brig. Gen. Sue Ellen Turner of Texas. She served 30 years, most recently as the director of nursing services in the office of the Air Force surgeon general.
Ron Carbon, director of the 21st Century Partnership in Warner Robins, called the list of nominees a very strong team. "They understand military value and the importance of a sound military strategy," he said. "That means Robins should fare very well because it stands strong in the area of military value." The partnership consists of Middle Georgia government, civic and business leaders focused on supporting Robins and its assigned units.
The Defense Department's BRAC 2005 list is expected to tap more than 100 bases for realignment or closure. Four previous BRACs - in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 - closed 97 and realigned 57. According to defense officials, this year's BRAC will have several goals:
• Trim the overall defense infrastructure by about 23 percent.
• Support transformational objectives in the global war on terror.
• Stress military value and joint or multiservice training and warfighting.
• Reduce duplication including the merging of military research centers and laboratories.
• Enhance military surge capacity to deal with future threats.
• Free investment capital.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Ron Smith, a consultant to the partnership and former Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander, said the commission will be very busy.
"They have such a short time frame and the Defense Department's recommendations are expected to be very complex," he said. "It will not only be an issue of closures and realignments, but someone will have to look at the Defense Department's recommendations and determine if they go far enough or too far."
Smith said he believes Robins holds a number of trump cards. "First of all, I hope the Defense Department recognizes Robins' military value and doesn't put it on the list," he said. "But if it goes the other way, I hope the BRAC commission comes to the same conclusion we do - that we have a very large installation with no operational restrictions and we can put even more missions in here. Those things have stood out no matter how we've cut and diced it."
Phil Browning Jr., a retired Army brigadier general, takes a broader look at BRAC 2005. As executive director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, he's concerned not only about Robins but 12 other installations in the state - installations that create $25 billion in annual economic impact and about 500,000 jobs.
The coordinating committee acts as Gov. Sonny Perdue's single voice for helping Georgia's military communities defend against possible BRAC impacts.
He said the commission has sufficient background to deal with complex military issues. He also believes that the state's installations will be competitive.
"But statistically, you've got to be concerned given the number of bases they will be looking at," he said.
Browning said he is familiar with two of the nominees, retired Army Gen. James Hill of Florida and Hansen.
"Gen. Hill spent considerable time in Atlanta with Forces Command, so he's very familiar with Fort MacPherson and Fort Gillem," he said. "Mr. Hansen was on the depot caucus (in Congress) and I think he favors Air Force depots. Other than that, I don't know much about the other people. One thing is sure - the governor, the state and the communities have done an awful lot to get ready for this thing."
Smith believes Tuesday's nominations will perform at least one useful service - it will give the BRAC 2005 process a new sense of immediacy.
"It brings the message home that BRAC is not something out there in la-la land," he said. "Instead, it's right upon us."