Originally created 03/03/05

Reports on life in area make case to save fort



Today the community will get a glimpse at a mass of studies that officials hope will encourage people in Washington, D.C., and beyond to believe that Fort Gordon and the Augusta area are a perfect match.

The CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon will release quality of life studies at a news conference scheduled for 3 p.m.

"We've been excited about them," said Larry DeMeyers, the chairman of the CSRA Alliance, which was founded in March 2003 to help stave off the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, which would target 20 percent to 25 percent of U.S. military installations.

The studies evaluate key quality of life factors for military personnel and their families. They examine cost of living, medical facilities, education, housing, employment opportunities for military spouses, police and fire protection and recreational opportunities.

"We included policy backgrounds to identify specifically what the military's concerns are," said Costa Pappis of the CSRA Regional Development Center, a local planning agency that researched and compiled the studies.

"It's more than to assume that we need housing," he said.

Overall, the studies portray a positive picture of life in the Augusta region:

 •  Most costs of living are below the national average.

 •  Housing is readily available, is modern and of good quality, and costs below the national averages and medians.

 •  Educational opportunities at all levels and advanced, skilled medical facilities are numerous.

 •  The job outlook for spouses of service members is relatively good, with high-paying, skilled jobs available.

 •  Violent crime is lower than the national average.

The studies also point out areas that could use improvement:

 •  Although Richmond County's public schools' test scores are improving, they have been below the state's averages.

 •  Grocery costs are slightly above the national average.

 •  Property crimes, such as burglary, are above the national average.

The studies, whenever possible, attempt to compare the Augusta metro area with other metro areas around similar bases.

Those bases, like Fort Gordon, are Army Training and Doctrine Command installations, which serve as schoolhouses for the military.

The comparison communities are unnamed, in keeping with a philosophy of the alliance to avoid criticizing or attacking rival posts and their communities.

The communities are in the Eastern, South-central, Southwest and Midwestern sections of the continental United States.

The Regional Development Center has been working on the studies for about a year, Mr. Pappis said, and a wide variety of data were used, including information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI and the American Hospital Association.

Mr. DeMeyers said it cost about $40,000 to complete the studies, with the money coming from donations to the alliance and from the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, the state-level effort to stave off BRAC.

The studies aren't just for BRAC, either.

"If we're not on the (closure) list, these studies are more for the future of Fort Gordon after BRAC," Mr. DeMeyers said.

"Because it's an all-volunteer force, we want to be able to attract people to join the Army, and keep them," he said.

"Military families want the same types of things that civilian families want."

He said the studies will be used in attempts to attract new military missions and tenant units to Fort Gordon, which would bring more people to the area, and to attract private industry with operations related to defense.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.

Quality of life reports:

Read the seven quality of life studies released by The CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon.

 • Click here to read the reports (.pdf format, requires Adobe Reader, click for free download.

Watch the video:

Watch a video slideshow presentation about the reports on Fort Gordon

Low-resolution version

High-resolution version

What's next:

The CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon will release seven quality of life studies about the Augusta area. The studies will be distributed to the public, to businesses and to the alliance's Washington, D.C., consultants for further distribution in the capital.

BRAC CALENDAR

The dates listed are, for the most part, simply deadlines for events to occur, not specific dates on which events will definitely happen.

March 15: By this date, the Senate must confirm the nine-member BRAC Commission, which will review the Pentagon's recommendations for realignment and closure.

May 16: By this date, the Pentagon must submit its list of bases that it recommends to be closed or realigned. This list, the first "official" list in the process, is not final.

July 1: The Government Accountability Office releases a review of the Pentagon's recommendations for closure.

Sept. 8: President Bush receives the BRAC Commission's recommendations.

Sept. 23: Mr. Bush approves or rejects the BRAC Commission's base list. If he approves it, the recommendations move to Congress, which has 45 days to accept or reject the entire list.

Oct. 20: If the list is rejected by the president, the commission's revised recommendations are submitted to the president.

Nov. 7: The president submits the revised list to Congress, if necessary.

Sources: Defense Department; National Association of Installation Developers