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No further BRAC recommendations expected for Fort Buchanan

U.S. communities face growing and decreasing pains

BY MARIALBA MARTINEZ of Caribbean Business

June 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

No alterations to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) 2005 Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) Committee recommendations for Puerto Rico are expected, given the strong possibility committee members haven’t included the island in its site visits, said Fort Buchanan U.S. Army Commander Col. Stephen Ackman.

"Since the official announcement May 13, I haven’t heard any news about additional BRAC Committee recommendations for Puerto Rico," said Ackman to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. "In fact, higher headquarter leaders don’t expect BRAC Committee members to visit the island, so we expect the realignment and closure recommendations likely won’t change."

The 2005 Pentagon BRAC list recommended closing the U.S. Army National Guard Reserve Center in Humacao and the Lavergne U.S. Army Reserve Center in Bayamón be closed and its operations transferred to Ceiba and Fort Buchanan, respectively. Aguadilla’s Ramey U.S. Army Reserve Center / BMA-126 and Puerto Nuevo’s Camp Eurípides Rubio were recommended for realignment, and Fort Buchanan’s U.S. Army Contracting Agency for the Southern Hemisphere Region also is scheduled for realignment and transfer to Fort Houston, Texas. Puerto Rico’s military installations will be reduced by 113 military positions and 48 civilian jobs, counting closures and realignments.

When asked about what impact the building moratorium’s repeal over Fort Buchanan would have on the installation, Ackman said the base doesn’t need additional housing (which is usually reserved for active military personnel), but construction in several areas is already in the planning stages.

"There were construction plans the moratorium caused to fall by the wayside," said Ackman. "Some of the larger projects were the 65th Infantry Reserve Center, the Puerto Rico National Guard Readiness Center, and a Military Entry Processing Center. School leaders also are looking forward to building new elementary and intermediate schools."

The U.S. Navy Reserve also has completed its relocation to Fort Buchanan, said Ackman. With all reserve units now concentrated on the base, the installation will actively form part of the DOD’s military readiness program.

BRAC’s impact on other cities

In Puerto Rico, Ackman doesn’t expect Fort Buchanan’s infrastructure to be strained by the realignment. "The Reserves’ personnel attending weekend trainings live in the metropolitan area or near enough to their homes to travel each day, but we have some overnight facilities for those who must stay. In addition, all field training takes place at [Salina’s] Camp Santiago and, with the 60 to 100 military police leaving Fort Buchanan and being replaced with U.S. Army civilian police, we don’t need additional barracks, although improvements will be made to the current housing," said Ackman.

The 2005 BRAC program may have had a minimal impact on Puerto Rico’s Fort Buchanan, but stateside cities and towns are despairing about the economic recession they will face when their military installations are closed or reduced. Concerns also have risen about Pentagon recommendations to keep open drastically reduced workforce Air Force bases, blocking local government from redeveloping the land for commercial purposes. In addition, recruitment and retention quotas could be affected negatively because of the consolidation of National Guard and Reserve bases.

Even cities and towns whose military installations face consolidation with other military units are worrying how they will manage successful integrations, both economically and socially. With more than 40 communities in 25 states gaining 400 or more people under the plan and 49 bases growing by more than 10,000 people, towns need to redesign their basic infrastructure.

If the 2005 BRAC proceeds as planned, in less than one year, many communities will have to begin providing more housing, build more schools for children of military personnel, and create job opportunities for military spouses. Among the military installations that will be most affected are Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas; Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga.; Fort Meade in Baltimore; Fort Lee in Richmond, Va.; Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas; Naval Air Weapons Station in Bakersfield, Calif.; and Jacksonville’s Naval Air Station in Florida.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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