Officials Warn Stewart/Hunter Not Immune to BRAC - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/13/04

Officials Warn Stewart/Hunter Not Immune to BRAC

We now have a better idea now how the Department of Defense will choose which military bases to close in the next round of BRAC. It's a list of all the things the DoD wiill consider when they decide which military bases should stay open and which ones they'll close.

Some of those criteria include how much land is available for troops to train and live, how much it'll cost to keep the base open, and what kind of economic impact the base has on its surrounding community. Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA Dist. 1) said he is "cautiously confident" about the future of South Georgia's military bases going into the next round of closures.

But not everyone is so sure. There is still a chance that Fort Stewart might not make the cut, and a few people are saying they are not going to be too optimistic about the outcome.

Nobody can deny the importance of the Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield in the Coastal Empire. The 20,000 troops and their families have the largest economic impact, bringing close to $2.2 billion to the area every year. But that might not stop the two military installations from being on the government's chopping block in 2005.

"The pentagon wants to reduce 25 percent of armed forces," said Trip Tollison of the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. "That's a scary number. We can't walk around thinking nothing will happen to Fort Stewart and Hunter."

Tollison is part of the Military Support Initiative, a group dedicated to keeping the two military installations off the 2005 BRAC list. But he says if they're successful in keeping them open, there is still a chance many of the divisions and batteries could be cut. "They might keep Stewart and Hunter, but there is no guarantee that the Third ID will be there once this is over," he said.

The fact that the Third Infantry Division was the tip of the spear in Operation Iraqi Freedom will play no role when the BRAC committee makes its final decision. "This is not based on manpower," explained Tollison. "It's whether the Army needs Fort Stewart and Hunter."

The Secretary of Defense will make recommendation on which bases should close, and in November of 2005, Congress will vote on it.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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