At the annual Defense Policy Forum on Nov. 12, one of the major topics was Base Realignment and Closure and alternatives to BRAC.
Policy makers all seem to agree that with the looming budget cuts another round of BRAC will occur in the next several years. At this time, they are trying to figure out the best way to go about choosing which base or bases to close and/or realign.
One idea was to ask the defense communities to volunteer their base for closure.
We know that this community never would elect to close our base, but that does not mean we are in the clear. The people of this community know and understand how important our military base is to our continued economic growth and stability.
It is unfathomable to think that any defense community would volunteer its base for closure. However, that seems to be what the politicians are hoping occurs so that they do not have to make the hard decisions.
To position ourselves strategically, it would be advisable for Liberty County and Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield to know and be aware of Section 331 of the Defense Appropriations Act, which basically states that local governments and military installations could enter into an Intergovernmental Support Agreement in the event of a base closure. It gives the local government the ability to help offset the cost of the military installation in order to save the Department of Defense money. At the same time, it further strengthens the bonds between the private and public sector.
Section 331 gives us an opportunity to not only protect our base, but also to help strengthen our local economy. Under this law, the community will have more input and relations with our base and garrison command.
The garrison would have more authority over their individual command. They would be able to enter into agreements and appropriate funds in areas where they see the most need. It will mean less red tape and delays in future projects.
It will give us the opportunity to continue to grow our base while other bases are downsizing. The garrison will be able to enter into lease agreements for land and facilities. Buildings on base that are not utilized could be leased to the local government.
There are so many different aspects and possibilities with Section 331 that gives this community and our base options to prevent any more cuts or BRAC.
For more information on Section 331, please go to www.defensecommunities.org. For an even further in-depth knowledge of Section 331, go to www.gpo.gov.
This news could not come at a better time. The government is urging defense communities to work with their installations. Right now, our budget crisis means that something will get cut soon, whether it is in our community or another. We need to act and work with our military to protect our community.
Even with a budget, cuts will occur and the Department of Defense will feel the effects of those cuts. We, as a community that relies on our military base for economic growth, need to take every opportunity there is in order to protect our base. Section 331 is giving us that opportunity and allowing us to grow economically at the same time.
The possibilities this opens up for us are vast. We could gain more jobs, bring in more impact aid, prevent furloughs, bring in major corporations, build up the base, have the possibility to gain back the lost brigade and more.
Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter have worked closely with the military and our elected officials in Washington. As a community, we need to get involved and join Southeast Georgia Friends of Fort Stewart and Hunter so that we can devise the best plan to move forward and protect our base, ourselves and our community.
For more information and to get involved, go to www.friendsofftstewartandhunter.com.
Hughes is the finance assistant for the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.