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BRAC commission hears how Army realignment will build future force

By Eric Cramer

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 18, 2005) – The planned closures of many Army Reserve and National Guard centers and several military installations, and the return of units from overseas were among the primary concerns expressed when Army officials testified before the Base Realignment and Closure Commission May 18.

Under the Army’s current recommendations, the 2005 BRAC would close 15 installations, seven leased sites, 176 Army Reserve installations, and 211 Army National Guard facilities. It will also create seven training “centers of excellence,” seven joint technical and research facilities, and four joint material and logistics facilities

Giving primary information for the Army were Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Infrastructure Development Craig College.

“The recommendations of BRAC 2005 will holistically transform the current infrastructure into a streamlined portfolio of installations with an 11-percent increase in military value which, thereby, enables the operational Army to better meet the challenges of the 21st-century security environment,” Harvey told the commission.

Rebase troops

Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi, who chairs the commission, started the questioning by asking Schoomaker about the return of troops from overseas.

“With regard to rebasing the 70,000 overseas troops, they don’t add up to 70,000 in the numbers we have,” Principi said.

Schoomaker said the Army’s portion of the 70,000 troops to be rebased is only 47,000, of which 22,000 are in units that will stand down and be reassigned in the new modular force structure. He said the remainder is made up of larger units that will return from overseas and be distributed to large installations such as Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Lewis, Wash. and Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

College told the commission these major moves will take place over a period of years.

Principi also asked if the movement of large units to Fort Bliss might overload the area’s communities, or lead to water-supply problems in the area’s dry climate.

“All of this is informed by the national military defense strategy which adds 10 brigades to the Army force structure and 34 brigades to the National Guard and Reserve,” Schoomaker said. He said Fort Bliss offered the right mix of maneuver space, unrestricted airspace, free radio spectrum for the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and access to sister services.

Commissioner Sue Ellen Turner asked if the closure of Red River Army Depot, Texas, called for in the BRAC plan is a good idea in the wake of media reports of difficulty fielding items such as up-armored Humvees.

Harvey said the Army has an excess production capacity, and it will be enhanced by creating “centers of excellence” in specific fields.

“In the past 50 years, the highest number of direct labor hours we’ve ever used is 25 million. By closing Red River and creating centers of excellence, we can surge to 50 million direct labor hours,” he said.

Transforming the National Guard, Reserve

Commissioner Samuel Skinner asked about the closure of National Guard and Reserve centers, and their consolidation into joint centers.

“I guess it’s like ‘Field of Dreams.’ You’re saying that if you build these world-class facilities, you hope the Guard will come,” Skinner said.

Schoomaker said the Army is continuing to work toward a “one-Army” concept.

“The Guard and Reserve are increasingly important to that one-Army concept,” he said. “What we’re doing is taking overstructure out of the Guard and Reserve and making them into whole units. You said it pretty well. We are committed to building 125 facilities with the hopes that 211 state facilities will align into them.”

Specially sworn in to testify, Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army National Guard, told the commission the states have cooperated with the Army’s analysis of which sites will be closed under the current plan.

“These realignments started from field submissions,” Schultz said. “They have been line-time detail reviewed by the state leaderships.”

Harvey said that the new joint centers will be constructed in the same areas as the old bases slated for closure. “We plan them for the same demographic area, within a 50 mile radius of where they were before,” he said.

“There are two points about this,” Schoomaker said. “The first is the obvious opportunity to improve training and retention. The second, as we look at this movement we would expect to see divestiture of the old sites, and direct our funding into these 125 centers.”

Combining bases

Commissioner James Hill said he was pleased to see DoD “get it right” by combining Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg N.C., in the current BRAC proposal He asked why similar steps aren’t planned for McChord Air Force Base and Fort Lewis, Wash.

“The big difference is the Air Force’s intended use of Pope. They’ll be leaving only a small element there,” College said. “So it makes sense to have a single entity under Army control. McChord will retain a large Air Force presence.” He said the current study is to determine how the bases might share suppliers and support services.

Hill also returned to the subject of increasing the troop numbers at Fort Bliss, asking if there were environmental issues to address. Schoomaker said the environmental issues there are minimal, and the base will be well served by being close to additional training pace at White Sands, and Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz.

Hill also asked why the Army had decided to put its decisions regarding leased property inside the BRAC plan. “You could have terminated those leases if you wanted,” he said.

College said BRAC was the appropriate time to analyze and address the use of leased property.

“If you’re going to take on the issue of the high cost of leased space, it should be looked at to determine how that infrastructure would work to support the team. We thought BRAC is the precise tool to look at it in a comprehensive way, rather than taking small steps over time.”

Hill's final question concerned the move of research and development from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to Aberdeen Proving Ground. Harvey called the move "a judgment call," but said because Monmouth is relatively close to Maryland that he expects more of the high-tech specialists from Monmouth will make the move than would happen with a larger geographic move.

Commissioner Philip Coyle asked about the many differences between this round of BRAC and previous rounds.

Schoomaker said the current round of BRAC is allowing the Army to accomplish numerous goals as the force structure changes.

“We have the opportunity to set the force the way we want it to be in the future,” he said.

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