With the Base Realignment and Closure Commission gearing up to make its recommendations next year, U.S. communities and their state and local leaders have two ways to go this year.
They can take the negative approach by putting their efforts into trying to get BRAC delayed until sometime after 2005.
Or they can take the positive approach by putting their energies into organizing public-private partnerships, as is being done in Augusta for Fort Gordon, to meet the BRAC criteria that would keep bases off the closure list.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is urging the negative course which is reflected in a House bill authored by U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas.
Georgia, as represented by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, among others, are opting for the positive approach, as does Larry DeMeyers, who heads up the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon. They oppose any effort to delay BRAC; in fact, they see it as an effort to politicize a sensitive military issue that BRAC was created precisely to avoid.
Any delay could actually be damaging to national security. The Pentagon "needs a BRAC round because there exists far more military infrastructure than the nation needs," Chambliss said.
To demonstrate his point, the senator notes that in recent years the number of major Navy ships has shrunk from 546 to 308; active Army divisions cut from 18 to 10; and active Air Force tactical fighter wings from 25 to less than half that.
Military installations kept open unnecessarily are basically welfare agencies providing make-work jobs. They drain vital funds away from necessary national security programs. Also, as DeMeyers says, "closing excessive and inefficient bases (is) a good thing for taxpayers."
Yes, closing bases and realigning and consolidating missions can be a painful experience, but stopping or postponing the process would be even more painful in the long run.
The interests of Georgia are best served by fighting to prove to BRAC that the state's 13 military installations - especially Fort Gordon - should not be closed down because they are a big asset to national defense.