Potomac News Online | FEATURE Local bases safe from closings
Although she said she can’t speak for the U.S. government, Prince William County Supervisor Maureen Caddigan said evidence would indicate that Fort Belvoir and Quantico Marine Corps base are safe from federal cuts.
The latest round of Base Realignment and Closures, or BRAC, is about to begin.The military’s list of suggested closures is expected May 16, but Caddigan and other local officials don’t expect either of the bases to be on the list.
New housing and office construction at Quantico Marine Corps base and new housing construction at the Fort Belvoir Army installation probably indicate the bases are protected from closure, Caddigan said.
“A lot of money is going into that base,” Caddigan said of Quantico.
Quantico, called the “Crossroads of the Marine Corps,” is central to advanced officer and enlisted Marine Corps training, research and development and military equipment testing.
The FBI Academy also trains agents at the 60,000-acre base which was established in 1918 and is 35 miles south of Washington, D.C.
“I feel very safe about the base staying with us,” Caddigan said.
Linda Worrell, president of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that Quantico, Fort A.P. Hill in Bowling Green and the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center bring $1.2 billion in revenue to the state.
The regional chamber is interested in keeping the bases in its region open and has been working toward that end since 2003, Worrell said.
In 2001, Congress authorized a round of BRAC for 2005.
The chamber hired Madison Government Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm to help with the task.
Paul Hirsch, the firm’s president, said he felt comfortable that Dahlgren, Quantico and A.P. Hill were all fairly safe from the upcoming round of BRAC closures.
Hirsch’s job is to convey the importance and “war fighting capabilities” of the bases that might wind up on the hit list.
As the most vulnerable to the next round of closures, Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center, located between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers in King George county, received more of Hirsch’s attention.
But Hirsch, a 14-year BRAC consulting veteran, said all three were in a good position to stay open.
“If the decisions are made on military value and what our activities bring to the war fighter, our three facilities should do very, very well in this round,” Hirsch said.
Hirsch explained that each branch of the military rates their bases for closure or realignment.
In addition, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has seven “joint cross-service groups” that look at different areas such as training, administration and research and development.
“These seven groups are also looking at all the bases,” Hirsch said.
The groups meet and come up with collective data on which bases should be closed or realigned, Hirsch said.
A compiled list of suggested closures and realignments is forwarded to “upper-echelon” of Pentagon officials such as the deputy secretaries of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are next in line to evaluate the list and pass its recommendations to the Secretary of Defense, Hirsch said.
“There’s a lot of scrutiny and a lot of information that’s been gathered,” Hirsch said.
By May 16, the Secretary of Defense will send the list to the nine-member BRAC commission appointed by the president.
All Congress members will receive the list at the same time.
Congress members then talk with the civilian and uniformed leadership of the services about listed bases in their jurisdictions in hopes of making the BRAC decision makers as “informed as they can possibly be,” Hirsch said.
Chris Connelly, spokesman for Jo Ann Davis, R-1st District, said Davis, like other congress members, must wait until the list comes out to take action.
If any bases in Davis’s congressional district wind up on the list, Davis “will do everything possible to keep our bases open,” Connelly said.
Local scuttlebutt indicates that people on Quantico and Fort Belvoir also feel that their bases are safe for the moment, said Laurie Wieder, president of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“I believe I have heard from the people at Quantico that they really don’t believe they’re subject to base closings,” she said. “They’re a very integral part of the Marine Corps.”