Originally created 05/26/05

BRAC commissioner looks over bases



MARIETTA, Ga. - Two of the Georgia military bases slated for closing got their chance to showcase their operations during brief visits Wednesday by one of the commissioners who will ultimately decide on accepting the Pentagon's recommendations.

Hal Gehman, a retired admiral, met briefly with reporters at the gate to the Naval Air Station Atlanta before flying to Athens to tour the Navy Supply Corps School. He said he had questions about whether the Department of Defense could prove that closing the bases would actually save taxpayers as much as defense analysts say.

"We want to be reassured that the gain is worth the pain," he said, adding that he realized there would be many costs associated with any base closed.

"Included in the costs are the human costs."

Mr. Gehman and the other eight appointees on the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission - known as the BRAC Commission - have split up to visit a total of 65 major bases on a list for closure that the Pentagon released May 13.

Wednesday's visit was a quick one, characterized by one observer as "a windshield tour."

Mr. Gehman did leave his car long enough to be briefed by each base commander.

Tagging along were aides from Georgia's congressional delegation and Gov. Sonny Perdue's staff, Athens Mayor Heidi Davison and a pair of former commanders still living in Athens.

Len Sapera, a retired captain who commanded the school from 1987-90 and is now lobbying to save the base, said Mr. Gehman appeared open-minded.

"They were asking the right questions," he said.

Mr. Gehman noted that all of the information given to the commission so far has come from the Defense Department and that local base supporters will get their chance during public hearings like the one in Atlanta on June 30.