Defense officials answer BRAC list questions

18 Jul 2005 | - Army Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample

Defense Department leaders appeared today before the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to explain why certain military facilities were not included among Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's May 13 recommendations.

Commissioners were back here to continue their deliberations after visiting military bases around the country in recent weeks being considered for closure or realignment.

Michael Wynne, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, provided details on several bases in question.

Wynne said Marine Corps Recruiting Depot San Diego, one of two maintained by the Corps - the other is at Parris Island, S.C. - was considered but not recommended for closure because closing the center would compromise the Corps' "geocentric recruiting, shipping and recruit training command and control."

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. William L. Nyland agreed, arguing that the Marine Corps, despite being the smallest military force, needs two training sites because it "recruits more men and women per percentage of total force than any of the other services."

"We have to have a steady flow of these great young men and women to support the Marines' combat forces. Having two depots allows that," he said.

The general also added "the return on our investment would not be realized for over 100 years" if the service had only a single recruit depot.

Commission members also questioned why Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard was left off the secretary's list.

Wynne said the facility was among four naval shipyards analyzed for closure, but added military judgment favored keeping the base open because of its "strategic location and multiplatform capabilities."

Other Navy facilities scrutinized by the commission included the Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, and the Broadway Complex in San Diego.

Wynne said consideration was given to close the Brunswick base completely. However, the base was kept open due to its strategic presence in the northeastern United States and for it surge capabilities.

The Broadway Complex, he explained, "is in the right location to best service the fleet within the San Diego confines."

Wynne said the Navy also examined alternatives for an East Coast master jet base. The decision was between Moody Air Force Base, Ga., appeared as a "feasible alternative," he said, but the base had a number of factors that made it less desirable, including "significant one-time military construction costs." The Navy decided to retain Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., because it was the "most suitable option," Wynne noted.

He said the department had considered building a new 21st Century master jet base, but such action would occur "outside the BRAC window and BRAC timeframe."

Added Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert F. Willard, "Moody is a World War II vintage air base. About a half billion dollars in military construction would be required there."

"Sharing Moody with the Air Force with the inability to bring the entire wing from Oceana there is not a cost effective alternative," he said.

In addition, the admiral pointed out Oceana provides a significant advantage because it's close to the naval fleet berthed in nearby Norfolk Va.

"We felt strongly that any alternative would have to continue to serve the fleet from a military-value standpoint effectively," he said.

Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley, recently confirmed as the next Air Force chief of staff, explained the Defense Department's decision to retain Moody was a good decision. He said Moody, near the Army's Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., will allow battlefield and expeditionary combat airmen to partner with land component forces better, and "to maximize warfighting capabilities and jointness."

Wynne told the commission that "jointness was a key goal" to many of Rumsfeld's recommendations on which bases to close or realigned. For example, he said Pope Air Force Base, N.C., was realigned rather than closed in order to support relocation of Forces Command headquarters there from Fort McPherson, Ga.

He said the air base will allow for joint training opportunities between Air Force and Army personnel and provide the airlift for troops stationed at adjacent Fort Bragg, N.C.

Meanwhile, Wynne said Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., another base the department wants to keep open, was realigned rather than closed to ensure continued strategic presence in the north-central United States and to support the department's emerging unmanned aerial vehicle mission.

Wynne told the commission the secretary's recommendations will make the department "stronger, more capable and more effective."

He added the department will make sure that the final recommendations are "fair, and consistent with the selection criterion and force structure plan and will in fact increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our military infrastructure."

Rumsfeld recommended closing 33 major bases and realigning 29 other major bases out of a total of 318 bases. The nine-member commission panel must send its recommendations on closures and realignments to the president by Sept. 8.

The president will have until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety. If accepted, Congress will have 45 legislative days to reject the recommendations in their entirety or they become binding on the department.

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