2005 BRAC targets a 'flag pole' list to test political opposition

A list of bases targeted for closure or realignment in the 2005 round of Base Realignment & Closure Commission actions that was provided to Virginia News Source Sunday represents the 'beta' or 'flag pole' list to test political reaction and opposition, sources said Monday.  The only Tidewater base on the list was Ft. Monroe which has survived three previous BRAC attempts to close it.

Ft.Monroe had had the powerful protection of then Armed Services Committee veteran Virginia Congressmen Norman Siskey, Herbert Bateman, & Owen Pickett.  Siskey and Bateman area dead and Pickett is in private law practice.  (Pickett is on a state committee, however, to help save VA bases from BRAC action).

In 2005 up to 25% of the nation's military facilities could be closed.

Among those included on the list of 52 bases were Shaw AFB, SC and Beale AFB, CA.  Already politicians in those locales are gearing up to 'protect' their turf from BRAC action.

At Shaw, politicians are hoping that House approval of $12 MILLION in improvements will help justify keeping the Sumter base less vulnerable to a BRAC attack. Included will be funds for new base housing and $8.5 MILLION for a new deployment processing center.

An AF official told VNS Monday that Beale, the only U-2 spy base in the U.S., 'knows it is slated for closure' in the 2005 BRAC.  It is the economic pillar of Yuba Co., CA.  Without Beale, which began in WW II as  Camp Beale, the area would be pretty desolate farmland.  

A new facility has recently been built @ Beale as the home of an unmanned spy plane, but a spokesman said that could easily be moved to another base.  Beale's isolation has been its savior and attraction for what used to be the 'super secret' U-2 program.  Now, however, encroachment allows anyone to watch the U-2 operations from the base.

Beale has only 1-plan:  Keep Beale open.  There is no Plan B for Beale.

House and Senate conferees, in recently approving a $400 BILLION defense budget, included provisions to shed unnecessary infrastructure.  According to a report by GovExec.com the legislation ..."addresses the Pentagon's desire to eliminate unnecessary infrastructure through the base realignment and closure (BRAC) process.

Hunter's committee noted in a news release that while current BRAC law requires the Defense secretary to assess future threats, it does not specifically require the military to retain the infrastructure necessary to support operational surges to meet those threats.

"Therefore, the conferees required the secretary of Defense to evaluate the probable threats to national security and determine the surge requirements necessary to meet those threats," the statement said. In addition, the conferees required the secretary to use this determination throughout the BRAC process."

And nationwide communities are already gearing up to save their bases:

  • NC Gov. Mark Sanford has just doled out $50,000 to Beaufort in the 2nd of 2 installments to fight base closure there.  He is expected to make similar grants to 3 other communities and last spring he made similar disbursements to the Charleston area, Columbia, and Sumter.
  • Bibb County postponed until January action on a proposal for a 4,000 home subdivision in discussing the need to establish a restricted zone around Robbins AF Base to keep encroachment from being used as a base closure excuse. 
  • The Seacoast Shipyard Association (SSA) in a meeting last month acknowledged "there are forces at work" to close the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in NH.
  • IL congressional representatives are seeking additional funding for new and upgrade projects @ Scott AFB they hope will protect it from BRAC closure.

That was the reason for releasing the list VNS published Monday:  To test congressional horsepower in determining how much support each closing or realignment proposal faces.

The BRAC procedure is little more than political gamesmanship.  Regardless of the base's operational cost, uselessness, and redundant mission, politics will determine which say and which goes.

For a complete list of bases on the 'flag pole' hit list see:  No Virginia Beach bases on BRAC closure list