BRAC Commissioners Continue Final Deliberations
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2005 The Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission began its second day of final deliberations today by approving the Defense Department's recommendation to close Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
Under the plan, if approved, most of the hospital's staff and services will move to the new Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., current site of the National Naval Medical Center, and the rest, to Fort Belvoir, Va.
The nine-member panel also reversed its July 19 decision to add the Defense Language Institute and Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, Calif., to the Pentagon's list of bases it hopes to close. Today, the commission members voted to keep both installations open.
As part of that decision, the commission voted to establish a new governing board to coordinate education programs between the Naval Postgraduate School and the Air Force Institute of Technology, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
The BRAC commission also voted today to close Brooks City-Base in San Antonio but decided to keep a joint directed energy mission in Texas.
The commission was expected to begin voting on Air Force recommendations later today.
The commission began its final days of deliberations Aug. 24 in Arlington, Va., to vote on DoD's proposal to reshape the military infrastructure and eliminate excess capacity by closing 33 major bases and realigning 29 others.
Initially, plans called for four days of votes, but BRAC commission Chairman Anthony Principi said he hopes to wrap up the session a day early, on Aug. 26.
"We appreciate the important role of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the process at hand," said Michael Wynne, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, following the first day of voting.
"As we noted when the department submitted its recommendations in May, previous BRAC commissions have recommended adjustments to the department's submission, and we expected that this independent commission may do the same," Wynne said in a statement. "We will begin to carefully review the commission's recommendations and will have no comment on specific commission actions this week."
During Aug. 24 deliberations, the BRAC commission voted to close:
- Fort Monmouth, N.J.;
- Fort Gillem, Ga.;
- Fort McPherson, Ga.;
- Fort Monroe, Va.;
- U.S. Army Garrison, Selfridge, Mich.;
- Almost 400 Army Reserve and Army National Guard facilities, creating joint centers;
- Naval Station Pascagoula, Miss.;
- Naval Air Station Atlanta, Ga.;
- Naval Station Ingleside, Texas; and
- Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.
The panel voted to keep open: Submarine Base New London, Conn.; Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine; and Hawthorne Army Depot, Nev.
The panel also voted to:
- Wait six months before deciding whether to close Oceana Naval Air Station, Va., giving local and state authorities time to make proposed changes to limit residential encroachment on the base;
- Realign rather than close Red River Army Depot, Texas;
- Keep the Night Vision Lab at Fort Belvoir, Va., instead of moving it to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; and
- Order a study of the practicality of converting a chemical weapons incinerator to incinerate conventional munitions before deciding whether to close Deseret Chemical Depot, Utah.
After wrapping up its deliberations, the panel will send its final report to President Bush by Sept. 8. The president, if he concurs, will send the final list to Congress, which can accept or reject it in its entirety, but not change it.
This week's deliberations follow months of hearings around the country regarding DoD's plan, which defense officials say will save some $49 billion over the next 20 years.