Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced Thursday that President Obama will call for a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
The proposal recommends one BRAC in 2013 and another in 2015.
If Congress gives approval, the commissions would be formed to look at closing and realigning military bases or shifting missions to help the Department of Defense meet substantial budget-reduction goals.
The call will have military communities across the nation, including Middle Georgia, mobilizing to defend their bases. Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins employs 23,000 people and has an economic impact of $4.27 billion on Georgia. The last BRAC in 2005 led to a gain of hundreds of jobs at Robins.
Panetta made the announcement along with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while discussing details of the proposed defense budget. The budget cuts $487 billion over the next 10 years, with $259 billion coming in the next five years.
Panetta said the budget will cut active duty personnel in the Army and Marines, while investing in technology and unmanned aircraft. He said it also calls for some C-130s and C-5s to be retired. Those aircraft are maintained and managed at Robins.
“The military will be smaller and leaner, but it will be more agile, flexible, rapidly deployable and technologically advanced.”
He said the military will be the same size as in 2001.
The 21st Century Partnership will lead the effort in Middle Georgia to prepare for BRAC. Board chairman Brad Fink said he believes Robins is well positioned for it.
“I think our production numbers and base leadership have such great momentum, and that’s going to be key,” he said. “We are going to look for gains on this as well and pick up new missions.”
A new BRAC has long been anticipated. The 2005 BRAC report recommended a new BRAC by 2015.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, senior adviser of the 21st Century Partnership, is skeptical Congress will agree to two BRACs.
“I don’t think Congress will ever approve that,” said Goddard, former commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center. “At least that’s what we are told.”
Eighth District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, whose district includes Robins, issued a statement after the announcement vowing to fight a new BRAC. Scott, R-Ashburn, serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
“While the president continues to insist on cutting funding for the men and women who protect our personal freedoms, he is ignoring the root of our economic problems: entitlement spending,” Scott said in the statement. “I intend to fight his decision every step of the way.”
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, issued a statement after the announcement questioning the projected savings from previous BRAC rounds. He said those savings often did not become reality.
“Therefore, I will examine any request for a new BRAC round, as well as any specific recommendation by DoD with respect to closing any installation, very closely to ensure all data and assumptions regarding savings are accurate,” Chambliss said. “I am convinced that installations in Georgia will be able to demonstrate their high military value in any BRAC round, and I stand ready to work with military bases and their communities in Georgia to highlight the strategic national security significance of every Georgia DoD installation.”
Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said he had been hearing a BRAC could be coming as early as 2013, so he was not surprised at the announcement.
“I think Robins Air Force Base will prove that it is a viable component of the military structure, and I think as long as everyone does what they should do outside the base, it will be a strong defense as they go through the process,” Stalnaker said. “I’ve got confidence in the leadership of Robins and the people who work at Robins, and I’ve got confidence in the community.”
For more on this story, come back to macon.com and read Friday’s Telegraph.