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Talk of military base closures draws negative response from Owens, others

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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 week’s 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 others 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 installations 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 posts 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 Army to reduce infrastructure in line with the overall reduction of 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 Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, also has been moved up.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the timeline has been moved up to inactivate 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 military’s future effectiveness.

“That, to me, is short-sighted,” Mr. Keating said. “We can make the budget numbers, but we’ll 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 association’s conference, which was held 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, it’s 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 can’t 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 you’d want to sacrifice readiness on.”

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