Skip to comments.Possible BRAC leaves fort in flux [Area’s future could hinge on DoD proposal]
Posted on 01/27/2012 10:55:31 AM PST by SandRat
One of the proposals for the Department of Defense to cut costs is having a Base Realignment and Closure round in fiscal year 2013, which begins on Oct. 1.
While there is a possible impact on Fort Huachuca, exactly what it could be closure, reduction of missions or new units being assigned is unknown.
The BRAC possibility is leading the co-chair of the Arizona Military Affairs Commission and former president of the Fort Huachuca 50 Tom Finnegan of Sierra Vista to issue a call to arms to not only defend the post but other military installations in the state.
In his Thursday press conference, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the military has to reduce its budget by nearly $500 billion during the next decade.
It will mean making tough budget choices, he said.
One of the ways to reduce the DoD budget is having a BRAC round, Panetta said, noting the president will ask Congress to approve one to identify additional savings as soon as possible in the upcoming DoD budget proposal. The press conference was broadcast on the Pentagon channel which is channel 122 on the Cox system in Sierra Vista.
Although it was expected the DoD secretary would announce two BRAC rounds, one for 2013 and another in 2015 during the press conference, he did not announce the one for 2015.
Part of the budget cutting process is redoing the infrastructure through the BRAC process, Panetta said, adding the entire budget cutting exercise is going to be tough.
Finnegan said the weak spot in ensuring the fort is protected from closure is the water issue.
The fort has done great work in reducing its water use, but the civilian community has to do more, he said.
We need to act together on the water issue, Finnegan said.
He said that the Army and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service once again are working on a new biological opinion which will involve water savings and requirements for the post to do even more in light of the actions they have taken to reduce water, but he feels this is an unfair approach.
The civilian communities have to step up and do more, even in light of the fact that they have done much, Finnegan said.
Water use questioned
Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller, who is the vice chairman of the Upper San Pedro Partnership, a consortium of more than 20 federal, state and local agencies as well as businesses and an environmental group, The Nature Conservancy, said some federal agencies are putting pressure on the Department of Defense, meaning the Army, to assume responsibility for every drop of water being used when, according to previous agreements, the fort is only responsible for the water needed to ensure the survival of the endangered Huachuca water umbel.
If that was all which had to be addressed, especially in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, there would be no problem, Mueller said.
Requiring additional water for other species is not part of an agreement and therefore should not be part of any consideration, the mayor said.
However, the constant push for the Army to assume all responsibility will continue to the detriment of the post, which means the off-fort communities, such as Sierra Vista and other Cochise County entities within the Upper an Pedro Basin are working to help conserve water, thereby saving the fort, Mueller said.
The basin basically includes the Huachuca Mountains west to Tombstone and parts of Bisbee, and north of the U.S. Mexico border to south of St. David.
Calling the potential of a BRAC round bad timing, the mayor noted Sierra Vistas coffers are low and finding experts to help with the issue will be costly, he said.
It could mean there will be a requirement to shift some of the citys budget around, without impacting services, Mueller added.
Calling Thursdays announcement by Panetta a warning, the mayor said it means, we need to get ready to mobilize and to execute defensive measures to support the post.
Finnegan said believes there will be some changes on the fort.
Based on the potential reductions Panetta is seeking beyond having a BRAC, the Army will be losing 80,000 soldiers and streamlining the remainder of the force.
The Network Enterprise Technology Command is going to be cut, he said.
Exactly by what amount Finnegan didnt know but said he sees the organization becoming more involved in cyber warfare issues, which is already part of the commands mission.
The potential for the Signal Corps 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade and its remaining battalion, the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion to leave could happen, he said.
The brigade has four battalions assigned to it, with one on the post, one at Fort Bliss, Texas, the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which was located on the post until late last year when it was reassigned to Texas, and two battalions at Fort Hood, Texas.
Wherever personnel reductions are made from the current units located on the fort, the cuts can be easily backfilled by other units, such as making the fort a bigger centerpiece for unmanned aerial systems, which have proven themselves successful in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, he said.
There is plenty of barracks space for more technology driven training units as well as other facilities for headquarters operations, Finnegan said.
The fort would be a perfect place for a joint UAS Training Center, he said.
As the major Army intelligence training center, which also includes students from the Air Force, Navy, Marines and civilians, with some of the training done at an Air Force base in Texas and a Navy installation in Florida, he sees the potential that the Air Force may close the training facility in Texas as would the Navy in Florida and truly make Fort Huachuca the complete center of excellence for intelligence training.
When it comes to the water issue, Finnegan said the post has gone out of its way to reduce its use but it will need continued support from the civilian communities and the state government.
As co-chair of the Arizona Military Affairs Commission, which also includes Mueller and with the expectation that another Sierra Vista resident will soon be named to the group, Finnegan said the state is fortunate to have a number of military installations Army, Air Force and Marine which brings in large amounts of money through pay and other benefits.
It will be the responsibility of the special commission to suggest how Arizona officials can support the bases, primarily in ensuring they will not be closed, which could be a detriment to the states economy.
Before a BRAC can start, a number of procedures have to be accomplished.
In the past BRACs and there were a number of them the president requested Congress to approve the procedure.
If Congress does so which Mueller believes may not happen this election year, but may in 2015 it will start a long process of naming a nonpartisan commission with the president naming members and both chambers in Congress doing so as well.
Then the commission will call for data information from every military installation, and have public hearings in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the country.
A list of proposed actions, closures, decreasing some installations, adding missions to others, will be sent to the president who can accept the list or send it back for revisions. The president will not be able to remove or add people to the list, which is only in the purview of the commission, although suggestions can be made.
Once the president approves a list, it is sent to Congress where an up or down vote by the Senate and House of Representatives will be held.
Finnegan said, when it comes to Fort Huachuca, there is wiggle room to make sure it doesnt close.
EDITORS NOTE: Attempts to obtain a comment from the Center of Biological Diversity, an organization which has been critical of the post and its water use, were unsuccessful.
He can bring ALL our troops home; dismiss 95% of them; close ALL our military bases; and replace them with a (non-pork barrel) combined Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force base in his district.
Dang; I thought sure there would be more response by now.
My own concern is Ellsworth AFB; It has been a hard fight every time there is a BRAC round.
Also, VA is attempting to close our local VA hospital & domiciliary http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/veterans_affairs/Battle_Mountain_Sanitarium.html
1898: The National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic held in Cincinnati, Ohio, passed a resolution requesting Congress to establish a national sanitarium in Hot Springs.
1902: A bill to create a national sanitarium in Hot Springs becomes an Act of Congress with the signature of President Theodore Roosevelt. Legislation allocates $150,000 for the construction of buildings and $20,000 for equipment.
1974: Hot Springs National Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2011: The Battle Mountain Sanitarium declared a National Historic Landmark.
2011: Citing decreased useage, the Veterans Administration announces plans to close the Hot Springs facility and move it to Rapid City.
Read more: http://rapidcityjournal.com/hot-springs-hospital-timeline/article_0e44b9c8-2906-11e1-b7da-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1khssHENa
It is the