Retired Maj. Gen. David R. Bockel, executive director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, discussed sequestration and base realignment and closure during his recent visit to Hinesville.
Bockel and local GMACC representatives Jeff Ashmen and Tom Ratcliffe last week talked about issues affecting Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield.
“We’re trying to work ahead of the game,” Bockel said, referring to the possibility of sequestration and another round of closings. “There is nothing you can do about sequestration, so getting everybody worked up about it is not going to help.”
Bockel noted the legislation that created the threat for sequestration already cut $500 million dollars from the military budget. Sequestration would include another $500 million in cuts. These cuts include drastically downsizing all branches of the service as well as Department of Defense employees and contractor jobs. The possibility of another BRAC could be as far away as four years from now, as close as two years from now or not at all, he said.
“So far, nobody has determined if earlier BRACs have actually saved any money,” he said, noting that deciding what installation to close depends on national security, the deployment platform of the installation and how much the congressional representative for the affected district is willing to fight to keep the base open. “Whether or not we have a BRAC, it seems clear we don’t need all these installations. I personally doubt they’d close Fort Stewart, Fort Benning or Fort Gordon.”
Ashmen interjected that part of what GMACC does is accentuate the positive aspects of a military community. He pointed out Stewart-Hunter’s many awards as a military community of excellence, available training areas and access to a major airfield and deep-water shipping port. The men compared Stewart-Hunter to other rapid deployment installations, including Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Hood, Texas. While noting that Bragg and Hood have major airfields, those bases are not close to a major deep-water port.
“What’s good right now is the Army can focus on quality over quantity,” said Ashmen, explaining the good side of current downsizing. “Sequestration, however, could affect the quality of our Army. It would be its smallest since before World War II.”
The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps also would be drastically reduced in size, Ratcliffe said. All three men agreed such troop reductions would greatly hurt the nation’s ability to fight another major war or respond to another terrorist attack like 9/11.
Bockel said Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson, both near Atlanta, were identified and supposedly closed in the last BRAC. So far, though, not much has been done toward redeveloping McPherson, but the local redevelopment authority established to buy and convert Fort Gillem real estate for industrial use already has arrived at a selling price.
“I work with (Georgia’s Assistant Secretary of State) Will Ball and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce,” said Bockel, noting that Gov. Nathan Deal moved GMACC under the authority of the chamber. “Will and Commissioner (Chris) Commiskey (of the Georgia Department of Economic Development) know our military bases have an annual impact of $19 billion. GMACC focuses on attracting military contractors to our military communities. Economy 101 teaches you that you take care of those businesses that live with you.”
Ratcliffe explained that the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee originally was formed to support the goals of GMACC.
“HMAC was a creature I created when I was mayor,” he said. “I asked (Councilman) David Anderson to work with GMACC and veterans organizations. It has since morphed into being a service organization that supports soldiers and veterans.”