No new round of future base closures
Lahontan Valley News Publisher Emeritus
There will not be another round of U.S. military base closings in the near future, Nevada Congressman Joe Heck and Sen. Dean Heller have told the Lahontan Valley News.
Despite appeals by the Obama administration and the Pentagon to authorize a base closure and realignment (BRAC) panel that would determine which bases would be closed or reduced in size, both houses of Congress have voted to prohibit a new round of base closures similar to the last round of 2005, said Heck and Heller, who both attended the annual Fallon Labor Day Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast and rode in the Lions Club downtown parade.
Heck, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a brigadier general in the Army Reserve, said because there will be no new BRAC, the Nevada Air National Guard Base at Reno-Tahoe International Airport and the Air Guard’s fleet of C-130 “Hercules” aircraft will be protected from closure or reduction in size.
Also protected are the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot, Naval Air Station Fallon and Nellis and Creech Air Force bases in Southern Nevada.
Although admitting defeat to form another BRAC, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has vowed to continue pursuing further base closing rounds despite the fact Congress has turned down his request to organize a new BRAC for the past four years.
New base closings and realignments “must be done,” Carter said recently in Stuttgart, Germany, while visiting troops in the Army’s European and Africa commands.
Carter said the U.S. military has “unneeded infrastructure… we’ve got to get after that. I am in an ongoing argument with the Congress over this necessity,” he stated while appealing for a new BRAC to take shape in 2017.
Congressman Heck and House Armed Services Committee Chair Mac Thornberry of Texas, both Republicans, have stated the last BRAC closing round in 2005 ended up costing the Pentagon much more to implement than originally anticipated, and only recently has begun to break even.
Heck, who has served three terms in Southern Nevada’s 3rd Congressional seat and is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by retiring Harry Reid, said Pentagon wants to reduce the military’s surplus infrastructure by 20 percent.
In a recent article in Army Magazine, the monthly publication of the Association of the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. David D. Halverson was quoted as saying, “The Army cannot get smaller and still keep the lights and water on” at bases and installations considered superfluous.
The Army, in particular, wants to close or reduce in size facilities and installations it considers unneeded or redundant in light of its continuing reduction in force from 562,000 to 450,000 soldiers.
“These superfluous facilities cost the Army about $500 million a year. We keep looking for innovative ways to save money and increase buying power so we can still train and have a readiness trained force we need in this complex world,” Halverson said.
During the last base-closing round in 2005, the BRAC recommended the eight C-130s attached to the Nevada Air Guard base in Reno would be moved to Little Rock AFB in Arkansas,, and the Air Guard’s support units at the Reno facility be dispersed to two stations in California.
These reductions would have virtually caused the Nevada Air Guard to shut down, but opposition led by Sen. Harry Reid, then-Northern Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons and a host of concerned citizen groups forced the BRAC to change its mind and remove the Reno Air Guard base from its closure list.
The Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot also found itself on the BRAC kill list. But the Nevada congressional delegation and the Nevada Military Advisory Commission created by Gibbons persuaded the BRAC to remove the facility from its hit list.
Closing the Reno and Hawthorne bases would have had considerable negative impacts in the communities involved as well as across the state, Reid, Gibbons and former Congressman Jim Bilbray of Las Vegas, a Democrat, stated at the time.
The economic impact would have been “enormous,” said Reid, who then was Senate minority leader, and the BRAC’s proposed move of the Air Guard’s aircraft to Arkansas would have caused a considerable negative impact in providing military airlift support in Nevada and the West as well as conducting Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.