• September 20, 2014

Local, Army leaders want another BRAC

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Posted: Sunday, October 27, 2013 4:30 am

Local voices are chiming in with the Army’s chief of staff to ask Congress to approve a base realignment and closure commission.

While the gamble could hurt other installations, BRAC could prove favorable for Fort Hood, said retired Col. Bill Parry, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance.

“I know that may seem counter-intuitive because people can only think of installations being closed by BRAC,” he said.

However, for Fort Hood, a BRAC at this time could be a good thing, proponents said.

“In the case of Fort Hood, there are opportunities to grow as a result of BRAC, and that is why (the Defense Alliance) supports it,” Parry said in an emailed statement.

Base realignment and closure can be tedious and time consuming, but also transparent and full of input from communities, he added.

The Defense Department requested two BRAC rounds in 2015 and 2017 in the fiscal year 2013 budget request, which Congress did not approve. In the following year’s budget request, a requested 2015 BRAC round was again blocked.

On Sept. 18, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno testified before the House Armed Services Committee that without a BRAC, the Army’s limited budget would be wasted on supporting excess facilities.

“BRAC would also allow for a systematic review of existing DOD installations to ensure effective joint and multi-service component utilization,” Odierno said. “If we do not make the tough decisions necessary to identify inefficiencies and eliminate unused facilities, we will divert scarce resources away from training, readiness and family programs; and the quality of our installation services will suffer.”

While the Army hasn’t quoted how much excess it has, the Air Force testified it could stand to shed about 25 percent of its current infrastructure.

BRAC bump

Parry cited historical BRAC data and current discussion points within the Army to support his belief in the BRAC bump Fort Hood could receive.

The Army 2020 Programmatic Environmental Assessment rated installations using military values and offered insights into how the Army would determine which bases to keep in a future BRAC round, Parry said.

One of the key findings of the assessment was that the Army intended on stationing 7.9 percent of its force at Fort Hood — second only to Fort Bragg, N.C., with 8.2 percent.

“That was a clear indicator that Fort Hood is an enduring installation for the Army — when all the dust settles, there is still going to be a Fort Hood,” Parry said. In a shrinking Army, for Fort Hood to reach its stated capacity of 50,000 soldiers, it will have to retain troops from closed installations. Last month, post officials estimated Fort Hood’s troop strength was more than 42,000.

Before visiting Washington, D.C., for the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting, Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said he planned to share his support for a BRAC with Central Texas’ representatives in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said in an email last week it’s too early to speculate about the impact of a BRAC, but that it is a beneficial tool for the military to consolidate.

“Budget cuts have already threatened our military’s readiness and its ability to train, support and sustain forces. I would want to be absolutely certain that Fort Hood will remain the Army’s premier installation to train and deploy heavy forces and would suffer no harmful impacts,” he said.

Eventually, Parry said he thinks Congress will allow another round of closures. There’s too much uncertainty without it.

“They used to say that the only two certain things in life are death and taxes,” Parry said. “I think you can add two more to that list — the Army will end up with something less than 490,000 soldiers (the current plan) and defense spending is going to decrease.”

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