Originally created 01/22/06

The BRAC war continues



Fort Gordon is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year because it escaped the Base Realignment and Closure list last year.

Now, as reported recently in depth by Chronicle Staff Writer Jeremy Craig, more good news is being felt at the fort: growth. The growth isn't from new missions or military personnel being transferred from Georgia bases that are being closed, but from established missions that are being modernized and expanded.

It's ironic, but in a perverse way Fort Gordon has benefited from 9-11 and the war on terrorism, because those tragic events spurred renewed efforts to strengthen the training tasks that the fort focuses on: intelligence, satellite communications and national security.

For instance, a state-of-the-art Regional Security and Operations Center, originally estimated to cost $230 million, is slated to be built next year to house signal intelligence personnel. The super-secret facility, to be run by the Defense Department and the National Security Agency, will be used to intercept signals and help track terrorists.

Says U.S. Sen, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., "Those folks have done a great job in working with the WMD issue in Iraq and the interrogation of Iraqis (during the war)." This work helped persuade BRAC to keep Fort Gordon open, the senator said. The new facility is expected to hire more than 500 people over the next five years.

A $4.5 million Training Aids Support Center is opening this month at 15th Street and Lane Avenue and a new $4.6 million Law Enforcement Center for military police and investigators is on the drawing board.

Meanwhile, over the next several months, about 200 sailors will be sent to the fort as the Navy revamps its intelligence training, and other troops being redeployed from abroad could also be brought in. This growth isn't large, but it's steady.

Another plus is the fort's housing privatization project - officially known as the Residential Communities Initiative - which awards about 60 to 80 percent of its housing renovation work to local contractors. That amounts to a multimillion-dollar shot in the arm to the area economy, says retired Army Col. Thom Tuckey.

As executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, Tuckey played a key role in helping to keep the fort off the BRAC list. He now serves as military affairs director for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, where he has some sound advice for the many civic, business and political activists who fought so hard on behalf of the post:

The battle is won for now, he says, so enjoy the reprieve, because the BRAC war will probably be renewed in another three or four years. The Donald Rumsfeld-led Pentagon has plenty more bases it wants to close. The worst thing we can do now is think BRAC is over, Tuckey says. He's right. The military likes to see continuing community support - not just a last-minute frenzy after BRAC is formed.

To ensure the fort's long term viability, fighting BRAC must be an all-the-time effort, not a sometime effort.