21st Century Partnership bracing for possible 2017 BRAC

bpurser@macon.comSeptember 12, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- It’s not surprising that the potential for a Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2017 came up at the quarterly meeting Thursday of a nonprofit agency designed to buoy Robins Air Force Base.

“The reality is what we’re trying to achieve here is prepping the battlefield,” retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, president and CEO of the 21st Century Partnership, told elected, business and civic leaders assembled at the Museum of Aviation.

McMahon said it’s crucial for those working on base to know how much they’re valued for the military installation’s role in national defense and in driving the Middle Georgia economy. The partnership also seeks to bolster the importance of the base in the regional community and in the nation as a whole.

He said the intent is to communicate that Robins is “indeed a national treasure.”

McMahon noted that 52 percent of the earned income in Houston County alone -- “that is direct jobs” -- comes from Robins. McMahon said the partnership is working with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission to develop figures that gauge the importance of the base on the region. Detailed figures, which look at similar numbers for regional military installations with the same scope as Robins, are expected to be released in October, he said.

Overall, the annual economic impact of the base is estimated at $2.9 billion.

When asked about the worst case scenario, McMahon said he expects the fiscal 2014 defense authorization, long-term spending bill will remain stalemated. A stopgap spending bill to allow the government to continue to operate after the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30 would be put in place through a continuing resolution.

As a result, the remaining $52 million in military budget cuts mandated in 2011 are expected to remain in effect, McMahon said.

Also, any military action authorized in Syria would likely be funded from what’s already earmarked for the nation’s military, which would further exasperate budgetary problems and could potentially drive further sequestration in 2014.

If BRAC hearings are to take place in 2017, then a call for the hearings by Congress will likely come in 2015 or 2016, McMahon said. He said that gives the Middle Georgia community about two years to get ready.

In other business, of $719,525 in pledges to support the partnership in 2013, $624,825 has been received, McMahon said. That compares with $457,279 in pledges received in 2012 and about $521,500 pledged to date for 2014.

The partnership also bid farewell to its former president and CEO retired Maj. Gen. Ron Smith. Smith and his wife, Debbie, are relocating to Tennessee to be closer to grandchildren. McMahon, who has been at the helm of the partnership for about a year, described Smith as “our gruff teddy bear.”

Smith received a standing ovation at the meeting.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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