10/06/04 — Official says BRAC will be savings

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Official says BRAC will be savings

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on October 6, 2004 2:01 PM

NEW BERN -- Regional leaders hoping to learn whether their town's bases will close didn't get that answer Tuesday but they did learn that no bases have been selected for closure yet.

Raymond F. DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, has the lead role in managing the Base Realignment and Closure process. He addressed more than 300 civic leaders of eastern North Carolina on Tuesday in New Bern and said there is 24 percent excess capacity at the installations, but that does not mean that 24 percent of the bases will close. DuBois will be in North Carolina for two days visiting various bases, including Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Officials are trying to determine which bases have excess capacity, such as warehouses and other infrastructure, and which bases can accept more troops and missions.

DuBois said all of the installations will be treated equally, no matter how small the community is. There is no secret list of which bases will close and which ones will remain open.

An overseas BRAC will be conducted before a domestic BRAC and up to 200,000 military personnel and civilian workers from overseas will be coming back to the United States, he said. They are still trying to determine which installations are suitable to handle these personnel.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believes that the BRAC process should not be delayed, and he sees it as even more urgent after the Sept. 11 attacks, said DuBois.

Any delay would postpone $8 billion in annual savings. The last four BRACs resulted in 97 major installations closing and 55 realigned and saved $17 billion. He said the money saved from this round could be used to help improve national security.

The main focus is to provide the people defending the United States with the highest quality of training with a well-maintained infrastructure and free up money to use in the areas where it is most needed, he said.

He said North Carolina leads the nation in addressing incompatible development around bases. He also said that providing in-state tuition for the military, which the state does, is important.

"All states could benefit from the example of North Carolina," said DuBois.

Importance the closure process is also being placed on military value. The economic effect on neighboring communities of closure is also being considered.

The president will submit the BRAC Commission nominees to Congress in March and in May, Rumsfeld will submit a list of base closures and realignments to Congress. DuBois said that if Rumsfeld does not meet that deadline, the process will be over. There will be a lot of work done between Nov. 3 and March 3, he added.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue introduced DuBois during the Craven Committee of 100's annual meeting at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. She emphasized the importance of the state's military bases to the state's economy and their value to America's military preparedness.

"North Carolina and its local communities have a proud history of support for America's military," she said.

She said local communities have conducted Joint Land Use Studies and are taking steps to protect training areas.

Wayne County has placed a moratorium on subdivisions within the 65-decibel noise zone around Seymour Johnson. The state authorized a $20 million bond issue to buy land surrounding military bases and the state's Clean Water Management Trust Fund made grants totaling $3.5 million to purchase land surrounding Camp Lejeune and Seymour Johnson, she said.