WASHINGTON -- The services have used the base realignment and closure process to realign active duty and reserve forces to better face the threats of the 21st century, Pentagon officials said today.
Each service worked closely with the other services and new joint cross-service groups to make sure the process produced a basing structure that will support the forces needed today.
On the active duty side, the Army has used the process to place brigade combat teams and to relocate units returning from being based overseas.
The service also has used the process to improve joint training and basing. For example, the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., will move to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Army officials said this move will improve joint training and ultimately joint operations.
The Army BRAC recommendations call for three brigade combat teams to return from overseas and move to Fort Bliss, Texas. Support units will return from overseas duty and be based at Fort Bragg; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Knox, Ky.; and Fort Riley, Kan. The plan also calls for a brigade to return from Korea to Fort Carson.
On the reserve component side, the Army will close 176 Army Reserve centers nationwide and build 125 new "multi-component" armed forces reserve centers. "We're proposing to close some of our smaller 211 Army National Guard facilities and relocate their tenants and units into these new 125 armed forces reserve centers," said Gen. Richard Cody, Army vice chief of staff, during a Pentagon news conference.
Cody said the changes will help the Army transform the Army National Guard into brigade combat teams like those in the active component, and restructure the Army Reserve into the combat-support and combat-service-support structure that mirrors the active component. The restructuring fully embraces the Title 31 responsibilities that the governors and state adjutant generals have for homeland security and homeland defense, Cody said.
Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the changes should make the Guard more responsive. "At the end of the day, the Army National Guard will be a more ready, reliable and accessible force, and we'll be able to leverage the joint capabilities of both the Army and the Air National Guard so that the governors can protect their citizenry here at home better than they can now," he said.
The changes, he added, will allow the states and territories to "do a better job providing Army and Air Guard units to the Army and Air Force, to the combatant commanders overseas."
Blum clarified a statement attributed to him that seemed to suggest he agreed with the notion that governors should challenge DoD's right to close National Guard bases. "All I said was governors ought to be interested and involved in what happens to their guardsmen," he said following the news conference. "The governors are the commanders of those troops."
Although the impact of the BRAC recommendations has been relatively light for the Marine Corps, officials are calling it a positive step in terms of reducing excess infrastructure and improving operational efficiencies.
One of the most significant changes involves centralizing its reserve elements and their associated management functions. According to Maj. Nat Fahy, a spokesman for Headquarters Marine Corps, the recommendations call for consolidating the Marine Forces Reserve headquarters and the Marine Corps Reserve Support Command Element of Mobilization Command in Missouri to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
In addition to centralizing management of reserve elements and their associated management functions, this move will enhance joint-service interoperability, Fahy said.
Another recommendation involves consolidating correctional capabilities at Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va., and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
In addition, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., will host all investigative headquarters, Fahy said.
Navy officials said the BRAC process attempts to set the infrastructure for the next 20 years. Navy officials said the BRAC recommendations go hand in hand with other major Navy transformation initiatives under way, including the Human Capital Strategy Plan, Sea Enterprise and Fleet Response Plan.
"A major part of this BRAC has been to (evaluate) excesses, try and look forward in years in terms of the programs that we'll deliver, the type of ships and submarines that we'll have in the fleet, and to try and match the infrastructure with a consideration for surge with that future naval force," Adm. Bob Willard, vice chief of naval operations, said today.
Willard stressed that across the range of Navy installations – the ports, the submarine bases, the industrial infrastructure – military value was "foremost in our consideration, and trying to get the size right of these installations relative to the fleet."
Lt. Christine Ventresca, a Navy spokeswoman, said the recommendations, once implemented within the Navy, will save more than $1.5 billion a year.
Officials said the recommendations will make the Air Force more capable, efficient and effective while helping transform the Air Force to better meet future threats.
According to Air Force spokeswoman Shirley Curry, closing and realigning bases will consolidate aircraft and operations into larger squadrons, optimizing critical resources.
By 2011, all F-16 and A-10 squadrons will have 18 or 24 aircraft, and
C-130 and KC-135 squadrons will have 12 or 16 aircraft, officials said.
The recommendations also help balance airpower within the Air Force's active duty, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components, strengthening the Air Force's overall warfighting capability, she said.
The BRAC recommendations affect 115 installations and facilities and involve closing 12. Officials said they end flying operations at 28 installations and reduce excess airfield infrastructure by 37 percent and excess building and facility infrastructure by 79 percent.
(Donna Miles of American Forces Press Service collaborated on this article.)