Originally created 12/15/04

Navy school might be safe from closings



ATHENS, Ga. - The key to the Navy Supply Corps School's survival during next year's round of military base closings might be its ability to adapt to changing times and technology, experts say.

"We're the base that can adjust," said retired Navy Capt. George Huban, who served as commander of the base from 1994 to 1996. "We've got a lot of 21st-century innovations."

Members of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee anticipate that the Base Realignment and Closure round in 2005 will shut down about 25 percent of the military installations nationwide. Four of the 13 military bases in Georgia could close if those numbers carry across the state.

"That would be devastating to the state, quite honestly," said retired Army Brig. Gen. Philip Browning, who serves as the executive director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee.

By May 16, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will make public a list of bases he suggests should be closed or realigned, according to a timeline posted on the U.S. Department of Defense's Web site.

The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission - made up of members appointed by the president and some members of Congress - will review Mr. Rumsfeld's recommendations and present a report to the president. The president will give his approval or disapproval of final recommendations for base closures by Nov. 7, the timeline shows.

In making a decision, the commission will weigh military personnel's quality of life, bases' mission value, excess capacity and the cost of military operations.

The Navy Supply Corps School "is extremely cost-effective," retired Navy Capt. Len Sapera said. "We do it smarter, faster and cheaper than anybody."

Each year, about 4,000 students pass through the Navy school, which provides supply, transportation and maintenance logistical training. The 58-acre facility, which opened in 1954 and sits on a military site that dates to the Civil War, employs about 130 military personnel and more than 190 civilians, according to the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee.

After rounds of base closings in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995, 97 bases were closed and 66 were realigned, Mr. Browning said.

However, members of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee on Monday said the school's uniqueness and significance to naval training - including the Center for Service Support, an educational hub for sailors, and a distance-learning program - make it an important base for the Navy. Some members, at their own expense, have made several trips to Washington to discuss the pending BRAC.

"We're going to be competitive - no question about it," Mr. Browning said of Georgia as a whole.

What's next

According to a timeline posted on the U.S. Department of Defense's Web site, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will make public a list of bases he suggests should be closed or realigned by May 16.