CANTON - Discussion in Washington of potential military base closures has drawn a negative response from U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and other supporters of Fort Drum.
Katherine G. Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, said during last weeks Association of the United States Army conference that Congress eventually will authorize another round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, according to comments published in Army Times.
The BRAC comments are in line with comments she has made during previous public appearances, as the Army faces billions of dollars in budget cuts connected to sequestration. However, past attempts to close bases have faced stiff opposition from Congress.
Mr. Owens said he does not support another BRAC round. Before supporting such cuts, Mr. Owens said, he would have to see more research on which installations could be closed.
I have not seen an actual analysis of facilities that would lead me to that conclusion, he said.
Ms. Hammack also said another BRAC round would allow the service to reduce infrastructure in line with the overall reduction in troops within the next few years.
The Army has been cutting brigades in a move to get its active-duty soldier count down to 490,000, but multiple leaders have said additional cuts may take place if sequestration continues. The timetable for those brigade cuts, including the 10th Mountain Divisions 3rd Brigade Combat Team, also has been moved up.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, said the timeline has been moved up to close those brigades by fiscal year 2015 rather than by 2017.
F. Anthony Keating, civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, said the potential for BRAC is a result of the sequestration cuts being done with little regard for their impact on the militarys future effectiveness.
That to me is short-sighted, Mr. Keating said. We can make the budget numbers, but well end up handicapping future generations that may need to stand up large numbers of ground forces.
Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, called the possibility of BRAC a challenge.
You never want it, but you take it on, he said.
Both Mr. Keating and Mr. McLaughlin were in attendance for the associations conference, which went from Oct. 21 to 23.
Based on the fiscal challenges brought on by the federal budgetary rules, Mr. McLaughlin said that at some point in time, its going to face us, even though Congress may be hesitant.
If another BRAC round were to happen, all three said, Fort Drum has positive aspects that would make it hard to close, such as its expansive training resources and the work of the 10th Mountain Division during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I cant imagine that the chief would be harsher on a unit that has been so versatile and so effective in dealing with so many different kinds of missions, Mr. Keating said. That to me would not be the kind of unit youd want to sacrifice readiness on.