Originally created 05/14/05

Fort Gordon avoids latest base closure list



Fort Gordon survived the first hurdle of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, with Friday's release of the Pentagon's list of bases it wants to close.

"Well, when I got up this morning, I had copies of two different speeches to give," said Maj. Gen. Janet Hicks, the commander of Fort Gordon.

With a smile on her face as civilian and military officials looked on Friday afternoon, she ripped up the speech she would have used had the post been targeted for closure.

"The entire CSRA is justified in feeling joy," she said.

But while Fort Gordon and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center have avoided the closure list, it's not completely clear what missions or units might be coming to the fort - if any.

The post is not on a list of bases to close or lose military and civilian jobs , but it isn't explicitly listed to gain positions, either.

Augusta officials had been cautiously optimistic of the post's survival and hoped to reap new missions - bringing new soldiers and their families, and economic growth - from other bases that would be closed.

Thom Tuckey, the military adviser for the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, said it appears there are no missions identified to come here at the moment as a result of the shifting of personnel from BRAC, but that could change days or weeks down the road.

"We'll know more with the data," he said, referring to the Pentagon's release of more BRAC-related data that deals with the decision-making process.

And "status quo is still better than closure or realignment," said Mr. Tuckey, a former garrison commander at the installation. "I'm surely not disappointed."

There are other factors, too, that could bring new troops and their families to Fort Gordon.

The military wants to move troops from Europe back to the United States. In a parallel process to BRAC - which deals only with bases in the United States - the Overseas Basing Commission is looking to see which units could be returned home.

Where those troops could go hasn't been determined. Mr. Tuckey and Maj. Gen. Hicks said that Fort Gordon has enough room to house more units returning from Europe if needed.

Other signal or military intelligence units, such as the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade or the 93rd Signal Brigade, also could be housed at Fort Gordon.

"Any signal unit looking for a home has got one at Fort Gordon," Maj. Gen. Hicks said.

As the Gordon Regional Security Operations Center, an operation of the National Security Agency, is expanding, more intelligence personnel are expected to come through the post's gates.

Fort Gordon was not the only Georgia installation not to be designated to close, or lose or gain personnel.

Fort Stewart, the home of the 3rd Infantry Division, which invaded Iraq in 2003, is not listed either, but experts have not viewed that post as one in danger of closure or realignment.

Speaking via telephone from Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., shared local officials' joy and lauded the work of the CSRA Alliance's chairman, Larry DeMeyers, and Mr. Tuckey, its military expert.

"I'm jumping up and down," he said.

"We're delighted that we have proof that ... we're all safe and sound."

The alliance, which Mr. Norwood helped form, raised more than $1 million over two years to help protect the fort.

U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., also expressed pleasure that Fort Gordon missed the list - even though he also represents a base the Pentagon wants closed, the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens.

"Everybody should be proud of the work they're doing there," he said.

Fort Gordon is under the Training and Doctrine Command - the Army's "school house" installations - and was right in line with the majority of its sister installations in not being closed.

The majority of training installations were slated by the Defense Department to gain military and civilian personnel.

The only base to be selected for closure was Training and Doctrine's headquarters, Fort Monroe, Va., which was built in the early 19th century.

The Pentagon's list is not the final step of the BRAC process.

The nine-member Base Closure and Realignment Commission must review the list and then forward it to President Bush for approval or rejection by September.

Next week, the commission is expected to hold hearings about the Pentagon's recommendations. This summer, it is expected to hold hearings and hear from affected communities.

The commission must have seven "yes" votes to add any bases to the closure or realignment list, making Friday's list harder to alter than in the past.

According to the Defense Department's data released Friday, at least two of the commissioners must visit the added installation, and the commission has to give the secretary of defense 15 days to explain why an installation was not included in his BRAC recommendation.

Independently of the commission, the Government Accountability Office is expected to release its own evaluation of the Defense Department's BRAC recommendations by July 1.

The president cannot add or subtract bases from the list.

If he rejects the list, the commission must revise its recommendations and resubmit them to the president.

In either case, upon the president's approval, Congress, which also cannot add or subtract installations from the list, has 45 days from his decision to enact a joint resolution of disapproval.

Otherwise, the closures become law.

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