Fort Gordon - our area's No. 1 employer on this side of the river - will clearly be on the bubble when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission makes its recommendations next year.
So why not put that worry aside by delaying BRAC for a couple of years? Isn't shutting down miliary installations a wrong thing to do in wartime anyway?
The House Armed Services Committee certainly thinks so; it's proposing to postpone BRAC until 2007. With sentiment growing in Congress for the delay, why not encourage it?
However tempting that might seem, it's a bad idea.
The people most involved in trying to save Fort Gordon from BRAC - including U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., Larry DeMeyers, chairman of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, Thom Tuckey, the alliance's military adviser, and Augusta Mayor Bob Young - say that changing focus now from protecting the fort to postponing BRAC would do more harm than good.
The momentum is in the direction of working to keep the fort off BRAC's list - even trying to expand its missions. The community is mobilized for that campaign, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised to advance it, and lobbyists have been hired in Washington to make the case for the fort.
Not only is it too late to pull the plug now, it would send a terrible message if we did, particularly if BRAC went forward anyway.
There are other good reasons to stay the course we're on. For now, thanks largely to the community's support, Fort Gordon is in good shape to survive BRAC - its chances enhanced by the $4.3 million it received from the 2004 military construction bill for a new training center.
But no one can be certain the fort will still be perceived as competitive in 2007. A lot could happen by then - missions change, assignments get altered, appropriations get cut. Also, as DeMeyers says, there could be "a more severe BRAC."
In other words, it might become a lot more difficult to save Fort Gordon in 2007 than in 2005. With Iraq perhaps fading from the closure commission's minds, shutdown recommendations three years from now could be much more aggressive, putting the fort in greater peril than it is today.
Thousands of dollars in studies showing why Fort Gordon's missions should not only be maintained, but expanded, would probably be outdated by 2007. That raises the question: Could the grass roots be mobilized again for 2007 if it were called off for 2005?
Perhaps, but not necessarily as enthusiastically. Besides, why take the chance? And why invite the need to duplicate the already massive effort that's under way to educate our leaders about Fort Gordon's great value to our national defense?
The point is, as Norwood notes, the decisions should be made by military professionals, not politicians. Postponing BRAC would be a political, not military, decision that could do worse than damage Fort Gordon's prospects - it could damage national security.
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