The Georgia House Military Affairs Study Committee was told there is no time to waste for preparing for the next round of military base consolidation and closing that could occur as soon as 2019. The study committee, headed by Rep. Dave Belton, has a mission of determining what can be done to protect the Peach State’s military bases when, as expected, the government begins its Base Realignment and Closure process.
As reported by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, committee members heard from Anthony Principi, who chaired the BRAC round in 2005 and is working as a consultant to the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. Principi urged the study committee to do anything it could to stay off the initial list of potential base closures.
“The history of the previous four BRAC rounds also reveals to you that if an installation in your state makes the Defense Department’s list of closure or realignment, there’s an 85 percent chance your base is going to be closed or realigned,” he said. “So your key is to stay off the list.”
Principi said the current climate within the federal government has become more about cost savings, with excess infrastructure a big target for budget cutters. That’s why the Columbus area and other cities around Georgia should start doing everything they can now to demonstrate their value to the military and its evolving missions. School systems, utility systems, affordable housing and other criteria could have a significant impact on decision makers, he said.
“I would also strongly recommend that you not assume you’re safe, that you not assume that Fort Benning is safe,” the consultant told the lawmakers. “Assume that every base in the state of Georgia is at risk. I’ve seen bases in 2005 where hundreds of millions of dollars were invested by the taxpayer, and those bases were on the list for closure or major realignment. So it could happen anywhere.”
Georgia has a significant military presence which contributes substantially to the state’s economy. Fort Benning has an economic impact of $4.75 billion and employs roughly 40,000 full time employee equivalents, according to a witness at the hearing. Other military installations in Georgia include Robins and Moody Air Force bases, the Kings Bay Submarine Base, and forts Stewart and Gordon.
On Monday, the study committee met at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. Next month, it plans to meet at Fort Gordon near Augusta, with additional meetings planned near military installations around the state.