WASHINGTON - Four Georgia military bases - including three in the Atlanta metropolitan area - are being recommended for closure by the Pentagon, The Associated Press has learned.
Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Fort Gillem in Forest Park, the Naval Air Station-Atlanta in Marietta and the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens were included on a nationwide list given to members of Congress and expected to be officially announced by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later Friday.
"We're disappointed. We think the community action group did a great job.... We're prepared to challenge the recommendation," said Fred Bryant, deputy director, Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee. "We don't know yet what were the key factors in the decision."
The four bases slated for closure in Georgia represented almost one-eighth of the total closures nationwide, yet the state actually stands to gain 7,423 defense jobs through gains at other bases. Fort Benning in Columbus would gain the most - 9,839 jobs. Fort McPherson, which is Atlanta's seventh largest employer, would lose the most - 4,141 jobs.
Georgia's governor and U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson were planning a news conference to react, followed by visits to the affected bases.
The proposed list will now be considered by a federal base closing commission. In four previous rounds of closures since 1988, past commissions have signed off on 85 percent of bases the Pentagon recommended for closure or consolidation.
Fort McPherson is home to three major headquarters - the U.S. Army Forces Command, 3rd U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve Command. Fort Gillem is a satellite of McPherson in nearby Forst Park, and it houses the headquarters for the U.S. Army Recruiting Brigade and 1st U.S. Army.
McPherson is one of the nation's oldest bases. First established in 1886, it became a permanent Army installation in 1889. Known for its on-base golf course, McPherson has 40 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Gillem is Clayton County's third largest employer. Together McPherson and Gillem have military personnel numbering 6,133 and a civilian workforce of 4,952 - for a total annual payroll of $512 million.
The Navy Supply Corps School in Athens is Georgia's smallest military installation, open since 1954. It's a training school and a support center for active duty personnel stationed at ROTC units and recruiting stations in northeast Georgia. It has a military population of 130, a civilian workforce of 193 and an annual payroll of $8.7 million. Supporters of the often-forgotten training school insist it plays an important role for the military.
"We are the smallest base in Georgia, but we may be the most efficient," said Len Sapera of Athens, who lobbied for the base.
The Naval Air Station-Atlanta, in Marietta, has an annual payroll of $48 million. It has 2,764 military personnel and a civilian work force of 140.
The latest round of closures - the first in 10 years - is part of Rumsfeld's transformation of a military designed to confront the Soviet Union into one better positioned to protect against foreign terrorists and threats from Asia.
Only one Georgia installation - Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta - was targeted by the Pentagon in its previous three rounds of post-Cold War base closings. It was on the list in 1991 and 1993. In both cases, it was saved by a vote of the independent commission that passed final judgment on the Pentagon list.
Closures in 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995 eliminated or realigned 451 installations across the country, including 97 major ones, resulted in a net savings to the government of about $18 billion through 2001. The Pentagon projects recurring annual savings of $7.3 billion from those four rounds combined.
By Sept. 8, this latest commission will have to submit its recommendations to the president, then must accept or reject the list in its entirety. Congress then has to accept or reject the report, also with no changes allowed.
One surviving base that had been speculated as a candidate for closure in the latest round was the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. The base is one of the top employers in southwest Georgia, and its economic impact to the community tops $1 billion annually.
"I could not be happier with the news, but I am not surprised," said Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga. "We have worked hard and done well, but I have found that the exceptional job being done at MCLB speaks for itself."
Fort McPherson, Atlanta
Key Facts: Fort McPherson was established in 1886 and became a permanent Army installation in 1889; It is home to three major headquarters - the U.S. Army Forces Command, 3rd U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Military Personnel: 2,260
Civilian Work Force: 1,881
Annual Payroll: $512 million (also includes Fort Gillem)
Fort Gillem, Forest Park, Ga.
Key Facts: Fort Gillem includes the headquarters for the U.S. Army Recruiting Brigade and 1st U.S. Army, responsible for reserve and national guard training east of the Mississippi; Gillem also includes the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Distribution Region and the only Criminal Investigation Division laboratory in the world.
Military Personnel: 511
Civilian Work Force: 570
Annual Payroll: $512 million (also includes Fort McPherson)
Naval Air Station-Atlanta, Marietta, Ga.
Key Facts: Officially designated in 1943, with construction on the current site completed in 1959; Navy reserve installation that includes Marine Aircraft Group 42, the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 and Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77; Squadron of F/18 Hornets.
Military Personnel: 1,274
Civilian Work Force: 224
Annual Payroll: $48 million
Navy Supply Corps School, Athens, Ga.
Key Facts: Provides logistics training in the area of supply, transportation and maintenance for Department of Defense and international personnel; new headquarters the Center for Service Support; manages 16 enlisted Navy specialists, with actual training at other bases.
Military Personnel: 389
Civilian Work Force: 124
Annual Payroll: $8.7 million
Defense Department at http://www.defenselink.mil
Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee: http://gmacc.georgia.gov
Fort McPherson-Fort Gillem: http://www.mcpherson.army.mil
Navy Supply Corps School: https://www.npdc.navy.mil/css/nscs/Welcome.asp