Robins could face cuts even without a BRAC

wcrenshaw@macon.comJune 6, 2013 

If Congress doesn’t agree to a proposed Base Realignment and Closure Commission, it doesn’t mean Robins Air Force Base is safe, retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon said Thursday.

McMahon, president of the 21st Century Partnership, told members at the group’s quarterly meeting that even without a BRAC, the Air Force still will have 24 percent excess infrastructure and a need to drastically cut spending.

He said the base could face a “stealth BRAC” in which the Air Force might decide to cut or move units on its own.

“It’s not prudent to wipe our brow and say we missed a bullet,” he said. “If there isn’t a BRAC, then the services are going to have to find other ways to absorb those reductions. There’s a variety of different ways of describing that, but it is essentially a death by a thousand cuts. So what you will begin to see is a reduction in missions and a reduction in personnel.”

As an example of what can happen even without a BRAC, McMahon said last year the base nearly lost one of its most storied units and 500 jobs that go with it. When the Air Force decided to cut one of its two combat communications units, it initially wanted to eliminate the 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins.

But the 21st Century Partnership lobbied against it, and the Air Force instead cut the 3rd Combat Communications Group at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.

McMahon said he wasn’t judging whether a BRAC is better than a stealth BRAC, but he seemed to suggest it could be the lesser of two evils. A BRAC, he said, would be an open and structured process with a chance to appeal any decisions. Without a BRAC, the Department of Defense would just make the decisions on its own.

“If we do it as existing today without a BRAC, there is no appeal process,” he said. “Given the choice between that and what I would call a stealth BRAC, it may be better for us as a community to go through a BRAC process. Ultimately there has to be BRAC to eliminate some of the excess infrastructure throughout the Department of Defense.”

The president’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $2.4 billion for a BRAC process, but the House Armed Services Committee approved by a 59-2 vote Thursday a defense spending bill that prohibits a BRAC, according to an email from 8th District Rep. Austin Scott, a Republican from Ashburn who serves on the committee.

At one point, the 21st Century Partnership meeting -- held for the first time at the Anderson Conference Center in Macon -- took on somewhat of a church revival tone after McMahon’s comments. Members questioned whether Middle Georgians in general were aware of the threat Robins could be facing. They also touted the importance of raising money for the partnership’s war chest and getting more people involved with the partnership.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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