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Fort Buchanan minimally impacted by BRAC military closings

Realignment and closure will eliminate 161 mostly military jobs


May 20, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño received the official Department of Defense’s (DOD) Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) list stating that Fort Buchanan is scheduled for realignment and not closure as had been feared.

Puerto Rico’s military installations will be reduced by 113 military positions and 48 civilian jobs, counting closures and realignments. The Pentagon recommended closing the U.S. Army National Guard Reserve Center in Humacao and Lavergne U.S. Army Reserve Center in Bayamón, whose operations may be transferred to Ceiba and Fort Buchanan, respectively. For realignment, Aguadilla’s Ramey U.S. Army Reserve Center / BMA-126 and Puerto Nuevo’s Camp Eurípides Rubio appear on the list. Fort Buchanan’s U.S. Army Contracting Agency for the Southern Hemisphere Region is also scheduled for realignment and transfer to Fort Houston, Texas.

"I am satisfied with all the military personnel who supported our efforts to keep Fort Buchanan open," said Fortuño. "I also need to thank those individuals whom we contacted at the Pentagon, the seven Veterans’ groups that backed us, as well as the civic and government leaders behind us. This is a great triumph for Fort Buchanan, having fought against being closed with our hands tied behind our backs due to the construction moratorium that was in effect but now has been lifted. We are on the right path, taking the first step and working together for Fort Buchanan’s future."

According to the BRAC list released by the Pentagon, the government will save nearly $50 billion over a 20-year period as it follows recommendations to close 33 major military installations and realign 29 additional major bases. Another 775 facilities were recommended for minor closures and realignments. Changes affected the 50 states and its territories, with a net loss of 10,782 military positions, 18,223 civilian jobs, and 2,818 contractor posts.

"We got the best deal we could ask for [to retain Fort Buchanan] and Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño and Secretary of State Designate Marisara Pont had a large part in that success," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ret. Patrick Balcázar, who along with U.S. Army Major General Ret. Félix Santoni, the civilian aide to the secretary of the army in Puerto Rico, also lobbied for Fort Buchanan’s permanence in Washington, D.C. "The DOD was also very smart this time around in considering unit realignments and not just installations as in past BRAC rounds. For Puerto Rico’s benefit, I think someone in Washington, D.C., must have remembered the threat of political unrest in South America and the growing drug market to decide to keep the base open."

What may have protected not only Puerto Rico but also other stateside military installations from more severe closures and realignments may have been the realization that approximately 70,000 troops from overseas will be returning to the U.S. in the next five years. DOD Deputy Undersecretary Philip Grone, responsible for installations and environment, said during a briefing last week that space would remain open in case it was needed for a wartime surge in operations. Still, DOD estimates of overseas base closings project a $14.2 billion savings over 20 years.

"Without more details about what closing and realigning installations will entail, I recognize some of the recommendations made in 2003 to U.S. Army Undersecretary for Installations Mario Fiori by Puerto Rico’s U.S. Army, National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve," said Santoni. "Regardless, I am very pleased with the results, and Puerto Rico has a debt to Fortuño and Pont for their efforts to keep Fort Buchanan open."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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