After the Jan. 20 euphoria of the Presidential Inauguration fades and the Trump administration begins its work in earnest, we will begin to see where the real priorities fall — and Georgia wants to be prepared. Back in March, state House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge and his House colleagues agreed to form the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) study committee that would be charged with exploring ways to protect Georgia military installations when the next BRAC occurs. In 2005, Georgia experienced the BRAC shutdown of Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem, Naval Air Station-Atlanta and a Navy supply school in Athens.
Middle Georgia is well represented on the 15 member committee with Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire and Rep. Heath Clark, R-Warner Robins. The committee’s draft report was approved by the state House Committee on Military Affairs.
Of course, our local concern revolves around Robins Air Force Base and many of the recommendations — school choice for military families, service cancelable college loans, a state tax break for military retirement income and investment in infrastructure around bases. In many respects, Middle Georgia has already moved in very substantial ways to support the military. The encroachment issues north of Robins have been addressed and with the new Georgia Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center in Warner Robins there is no doubt of the state’s support for military personnel and their families.
All of those measures are great, but the work of a more permanent committee is needed. While there will be no BRAC in 2017, a standing committee, already in the works, will enable the state to constantly update data and revise plans to make sure Georgia bases are in a position to stay open and accept new missions when a BRAC does come rolling through.
While Robins is our main concern, the state is rightly looking out for all the state’s military installations that bring billions of dollars in economic impact and employ thousands of civilians. Whatever the state can do to support these bases, is the right thing to do.