Editorials

Bring on the BRAC — maybe

There are three professions that thrive on acronyms: education, medical and military. But while school personnel might draw a blank stare when they use “CCRPI” (College and Career Ready Performance Index) or medical personnel when they use BPD (bronchopulmonary dysplasia), there is no confusion -- at least in Middle Georgia -- when someone drops the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) bomb. Washington lawmakers have been fighting back another BRAC for years, much to the Pentagon’s chagrin. The military believes it has excess facility capacity in the area of 25 percent. That’s money it could devote to other weapon systems and to restore depleted fleets in all branches of the service. Congress, thus far, has said no.

Unfortunately, lawmakers allowed a word most Americans had never heard of to enter into their vocabulary: Sequestration. It was a “we’ll never step off that cliff” dare. As we know now, they stepped off the cliff, and our military paid the price. With the sequestration cloud hanging over the Pentagon’s head, planning turned into reacting. Not a way to run a railroad, much less the most powerful military force on the face of the Earth.

On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee rejected language that would have permitted a BRAC in 2016, but before we run through the streets shouting hallelujah, the full House still has to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act that would contain any BRAC language later this month. BRAC’s leading advocate, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, is carrying the Pentagon’s water.

Why would the Pentagon want a BRAC? For one, it’s an orderly process while sequestration is chaos. As far as Robins Air Force Base is concerned, it is in a perfect position to not only survive a BRAC but also thrive and take on additional missions. The encroachment issues have been eliminated. With the election of new union leadership, that concern has disappeared, though the old guard continues to snipe at the new. Productivity is up. The only unknown is the state’s political bench strength. Georgia does not have a seat on the 26-member Senate Committee on Armed Services. In the House, Georgia is outgunned. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., and Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., have to hold the fort against a California that has nine members on the committee, Texas with five, Alabama with four, and Florida and Virginia with three apiece.

Even if we don’t see a BRAC in 2016, the chances are greater that we will see one in 2017 or 2018. Maybe by that time we’ll have more clout in the Senate and House.

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