by Jennifer Moulliet, 13WMAZ.com
- The next BRAC, which determines whether a military base is closed, could be in 2015, if approved by Congress.
- The commission is comprised of nine members: three appointed by each the President, the Senate and the House.
- Robins AFB, which employs about 20,000 people, could be on the list so local orgs are trying to prepare the community to fight.
Two organizations have sounded the alarm about whether the Central Georgia community is ready for the base realignment and closure, better known as the BRAC.
If Congress approves, the BRAC could happen as soon as 2015.
To help the community prepare, the 21st Century Partnership and the Heart of Georgia Energy Coalition held a public discussion Wednesday.
13WMAZ spoke with one of the guests at the forum, Andrea Morris, a Virginia-based BRAC expert, to find out what the city and the base community must do to get ready.
"There's time now for communities to start, initiate, work out whatever challenges there may be on post or off post because there is only one community," Morris explained.
The BRAC Director and Community Resilience Director for Arlington County, Virginia, she knows the repercussions of a BRAC first-hand. In 2005, they lost 17,000 jobs.
She says one advantage for Robins Air Force Base is that it's so close to Atlanta.
But she's alarmed when she hears that people in the community don't know what the base does or how it affects them.
"If you don't know, then that means you're not involved and that is an opportunity for the commission to say, 'Well, you're not involved; you're not engaged; you don't know what's going on. You're not able to support them. They're not able to support you.' Or there's no demonstration of that so the value of it (the base) is lessened."
Morris says some of the 17,000 jobs that Arlington County lost after the 2005 BRAC were moved to other bases. But for those that lost their jobs they provided counseling, seminars and job fairs.
THE BIG DANGER
The Robins Air Force Base employs more than 20,000 civilian and military workers, making it Central Georgia's largest employer by far.
"Big places are going to have to go because there's no little ones to close anymore, that's all happened, it's all been done," retired Army General James Hill says.
General Hill was a member of the nine-member BRAC commission, and helped decide which installations got the ax in 2005.
Because he'd only been in town a day, he didn't want to speculate how Robins Air Force Base would stack up against another BRAC, but he did say he thinks the installation will be carefully scrutinized and that Robins will be compared to the other two air logistics centers.
"If we're going to compress ourselves from three to two, for example, the one you're going to close down is the one that can't expand, because somebody is going to have to grow. If Warner Robins went away today as an installation my suspicion is the workload has to go somewhere else," says Hill.
He says a way to get the commission to understand the need for Robins Air Force Base is to prove that without it, the country would lose critical components of national defense.
He explains how the community in Clovis, New Mexico saved Cannon Air Force Base in 2005. "It was the community that said to the commission if you close Cannon you're going to lose the ability to x training areas, you're going to lose cross country flight, low country flight, things that you can't duplicate anywhere else and those things are essential. That did cause us to really take a hard look at the need for Cannon. The reality is once the commission voted to keep Cannon Air Force Base it grew in size, it didn't decrease."
WHAT IS THE BRAC?
BRAC is the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
It's created by Congress, whenever it's deemed necessary. The last time was 2005.
The commission's job is to provide an objective, non-partisan, and independent review of military installations recommended for possible closure by the Department of Defense.
Pentagon leaders say it is highly likely the next BRAC Commission will be in 2015.
WHO MAKES UP THE COMMISSION?
Nine members: three appointed by the President, three by the Senate, three by the House.
WHAT DO THEY LOOK FOR?
The commission looks at factors like a base's military value, its current and future mission capabilities and the land availability.
They also examine the potential costs and savings at a base, as well as its economic impact.
The 2005 BRAC did have an impact on Georgia bases.
The biggest job losses were at Fort McPherson in East Point, Fort Gillem in Forest Park and Naval Air Station Atlanta in Marietta. All three were closed.
Columbus' Fort Benning, Moody AFB in Valdosta and Robins Air Force Base also saw significant job gains or losses.
In the five previous BRACs, Robins has never made the list of potential installations for closure.