10/07/04 — BRAC official makes no promises

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BRAC official makes no promises

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on October 7, 2004 2:01 PM

A Defense Department official said Wednesday that the strong relationship between Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and its surrounding community is well known in the Pentagon.

But he could not make any guarantees on whether Seymour Johnson, or any other base in the country, would survive a major military restructuring coming next year.

"I am impressed and pleased to see the strong community support," said Raymond F. DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.

But, he added, "I do not know how Seymour Johnson will fare in the BRAC process."

DuBois has the lead role in managing the Base Realignment and Closure process. He spent two days in North Carolina visiting three bases -- Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune and Seymour Johnson.

The purpose of the visit was to see the functions of the three installations. These functions will be evaluated against similar functions of other bases during the BRAC process, he said.

DuBois said all of the installations will be treated equally, no matter how small the community is. All of the country's base commanders were asked the same questions at the beginning of the process concerning what infrastructure they have and what the bases' missions are. He said all of the N.C. bases he has visited have glorious histories, but those histories are not what is important when making BRAC decisions.

There is no secret list of which bases will close and which ones will remain open. He said this BRAC round will be the most comprehensive in history. The president will submit the BRAC Commission nominees to Congress in March, and in May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will submit a list of base closures and realignments to Congress. At that time, all of the analysis, conclusions and recommendations will be available to the public.

He said it is possible there could be more closings and realignments in this round than in the last round, which was in 1995, because there are so many smaller installations. There are two schools of thought: to consolidate everything to one area of bases or spread them out all over so they are not targets. He said neither concept is correct, and they must make the decision based on military value after they compare the functions of the bases.

"This is not an easy process," he said. But it will return value to the taxpayer and the force structure will be changed from how it was during the Cold War era to fight the global war on terrorism more efficiently in the 21st century.

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

DuBois spent time in Goldsboro visiting with Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, Goldsboro Mayor Al King and other officials. He said they are important in the process. He wanted to give them the opportunity to express their views and offer their opinions.

He also discussed environmental issues affecting the bases. He said he is dealing with the issue with Congress, local politicians and local conservation organizations. He said they can all put their money together to achieve the same goal.

Protecting the environment will provide local communities with additional recreational areas for hunting, fishing and hiking; will provide wildlife refuges and watersheds; and the military will get additional buffer lands, he added.

He said North Carolina leads the nation in addressing incompatible development around bases.

DuBois spent time looking at all of the new construction at Seymour Johnson, including the new homes in the family housing area; plans for the new 4th Fighter Wing headquarters; and a new fire station. He said if he were an airman, the base would be a very attractive place to work.

Following his visit to Seymour Johnson, DuBois attended a reception at the Goldsboro Country Club sponsored by the Military Affairs Committee and Seymour Support Council.