In 1995 the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended the permanent closure of Fort Chaffee, AR, and the installation was closed in September 1997. The recommendation was approved with the condition that minimum essential ranges, facilities and training areas are maintained as a Reserve Component Training enclave. In late 1995, the federal government declared approximately 6,000 of Fort Chaffee's 72,000 acres to be surplus. The remaining 66,000 were turned over to the Arkansas Army National Guard training facility in October 1997. Use and redevelopment of the 6,000 surplus acres is left to the discretion of local community citizens and leaders.
From the early days of World War II, Fort Chaffee was a key military training installation. It served as the Joint Readiness Training Center for light combat forces until 1993. In the late 1970's Fort Chaffee was home to 50,000 Southeast Asian refugees and later to 20,000 Caribbean refugees. The Army's presence at Fort Chaffee will continue on lands retained for the reserve components where more than 50,000 Army National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers train there annually. The City of Barling was originally a farm town, however, by the early 1940's the winds of war were blowing across Europe and were to dramatically change the destiny of this small Arkansas community. The construction of Camp Chaffee, named after Major General Adna R. Chaffee, began in 1940 with the first complement of soldiers arriving the week of December 7, 1941. The mission of the post was to train U.S. soldiers for combat in Europe, America and the Pacific. The City of Barling experienced a tremendous boom in housing, businesses and people. Following WWII, Camp Chaffee became Fort Chaffee and continued to train U.S. Army personnel in a variety of military specialties.
In 1958 Elvis Presley was inducted into the U.S. army and began basic training here. Because Fort Chaffee retains it's WWII look, several motion pictures have been filmed at the post. It was also the location for the filming of the movies "Biloxi Blues," and "A Soldier's Story." Fort Chaffee is a part of military history and Arkansas history and that needs to be maintained. Several buildings located at Fort Chaffee are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places including the Maness Schoolhouse building, which dates back before the 1940's. Another 21 sites are potentially eligible for inclusion and another 22 sites will require further investigation.
The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process of 1991 moved the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) from Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, to Fort Polk, Louisiana.
In July 1995 the BRAC commission advised closing Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, a sub-installation of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, as an active component (AC) facility. The 1995 BRAC recommendations became Public Law 101-510 on 28 September 1995. Based upon the law, the Commanding General of Fort Sill had to close Fort Chaffee except for the minimum essential ranges, facilities, and training areas required for a reserve component (RC) training enclave for individual and annual training and had to dispose of excess properties to the private sector. This involved creating a RC training enclave that would license the Arkansas Army National Guard (ARARNG) to operate it with U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) activities being tenants and realigning current tenants from Fort Chaffee. Fort Sill also had to transfer Fort Chaffee area support responsibilities to Fort Sill, establish an Arkansas Army National Guard garrison at Fort Chaffee, and cancel the installation's designation as a U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) mobilization station and contingency mission site. In addition, Fort Sill had to ensure that the property would be declared excess and would be turned over to the private sector environmentally clean.
On 27 September 1997 a change of command ceremony closed an era at Fort Chaffee. That day, official command and control of the installation passed from the U.S. Army to the Arkansas Army National Guard when the U.S. Army Garrison was inactivated. The installation officially became known as the Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center.
The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) was established to develop a set of recommendations for reutilization and development of the remaining property, including removal or disposal of more than 600 World War II-era temporary wood frame buildings comprising about 2 million square feet of floor space.
A number of unique characteristics of the property make redevelopment a costly endeavor. Fort Chaffee has over 700 buildings that must be demolished in order to encourage development. The buildings date from the World War II era and contain a significant amount of asbestos and lead. This hazardous material must be removed before the buildings can be demolished. The projected cost of the entire project is $22 million. And because the lead and asbestos do not pose an immediate threat to the safety of the community (and will not until the buildings come down), the Fort Chaffee Public Trust has been unsuccessful in finding federal funds through the EPA to help with this effort. Other infrastructure needs that must be addressed before the property is ready for reuse total another $10.6 million.
The Army took a major step forward in assisting the local community's efforts to revitalize Fort Chaffee as it transferred a portion of the post to the state of Arkansas in a deed signing ceremony held on November 16, 2000 at the Pentagon. The Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, a state chartered public trust, received 3,793 acres, which includes 35 buildings at no cost as a result of a 1995 Base Closure Commission recommendation. The Army will ultimately transfer 5,235 acres and 770 buildings in total to the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority upon completion of any remaining environmental remediation and review.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: Realign the Army Reserve Center, Darby, AR, by relocating the 341st Engineer Company and elements of the 75th Division (Exercise) from buildings #2552-2560, 2516, and 2519, Fort Chaffee, AR, into a new Armed Forces Reserve Center, on Fort Chaffee, AR.
Additional Recommendations: The DoD's 2005 BRAC Recommendations would close the Army Reserve Equipment Concentration Site (ECS), Barling, Arkansas and relocate units to a new Joint Maintenance Facility on Fort Chaffee. The new Joint Maintenance Facility would have the capability to accommodate Arkansas National Guard units from the Arkansas Army National Guard Combined Support Maintenance Shop (CSMS) on Fort Chaffee if the State of Arkansas decided to relocate those units.
Secretary of Defense Justification: This recommendation transforms Reserve Component facilities throughout the State of Arkansas. The implementation of this recommendation will enhance military value, improve homeland defense capability, greatly improve training and deployment capability, create significant efficiencies and cost savings, and is consistent with the Army's Force Structure Plans and Army transformational objectives.
This recommendation is the result of a state-wide analysis of Reserve Component installations and facilities conducted by a team of functional experts from Headquarters, Department of the Army, the Office of the State Adjutant General, and the Army Reserve Regional Readiness Command.
This recommendation closes seven Army Reserve centers, one Equipment Concentration Site and one Organizational Maintenance Site. It also constructs eight multicomponent, multifunctional Armed Forces Reserve Centers (AFRCs) and one multicomponent, maintenance facility throughout the State of Arkansas, capable of accommodating National Guard and Reserve units. This recommendation reduces military manpower and associated costs for maintaining existing facilities by collapsing twenty-six geographically separated facilities into nine modern, multicomponent facilities. These joint-use facilities will significantly reduce operating costs and create improved business processes. The Department understands that the State of Arkansas will close fifteen Arkansas Army National Guard Readiness Centers: Charleston, Van Buren, Fort Smith, Jonesboro, Paragould, El Dorado, Pine Bluff, Arkadelphia, Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, and Hot Springs, the Fort Chaffee Combined Support Maintenance Shop and the Jonesboro Field Maintenance Shop. The Armed Forces Reserve Centers will have the capability to accommodate these units if the state decides to relocate the units from these closed facilities into the new AFRCs. This recommendation considered feasible locations within the demographic and geographic areas of the closing facilities and affected units. The sites selected were determined as the best locations because they optimize the Reserve Components' ability to recruit and retain Reserve Component soldiers and to train and mobilize units affected by this recommendation.
This recommendation provides the opportunity for other Local, State, or Federal organizations to partner with the Reserve Components to enhance homeland security and homeland defense at a reduced cost to those agencies.
Although not captured in the COBRA analysis, this recommendation, in conjunction with other State restructuring, avoids an estimated $63.3M in mission facility renovation costs and procurement avoidances associated with meeting AT/FP construction standards and altering existing facilities to meet unit training and communications requirements. Consideration of these avoided costs would reduce costs and increase the net savings to the Department of Defense in the 6-year BRAC implementation period and in the 20-year period used to calculate NPV.
Community Concerns: There were no formal expressions from the community.
Commission Findings: The Commission found no reason to disagree with the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense. In addition, the Commission notes that the Army's process was well thought-out and inclusive of the leadership of the Reserve Components and the State.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found the Secretary's recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and force structure plan. Therefore, the Commission approved the recommendation of the Secretary.
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