Hearing to address BRAC delays, cost savings

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton has requested that Ortiz, Readiness Subcommittee chairman, have a BRAC hearing in early November.

Wichita Falls' U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a House Armed Services Committee member, favors a probe of estimated cost savings for various BRAC moves.

"There were a number of examples where it has been questioned at least whether cost savings could actually be realized as BRAC said they would," Thornberry, R-Clarendon, of the 13th Congressional District said. "That is a real legitimate question for oversight that would be good to pursue."

Sheppard's 882nd Training Group - with hundreds of permanent positions and students - would move to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio because of BRAC. That means a departure of basic enlisted medical training from Sheppard.
The group is "deep into the planning process," Mike McKito, base spokesman, said.

"But no personnel or training courses have moved as of yet," McKito said.

Group members are creating a transition plan for Sheppard courses, he said.

The base would lose about 506 permanent military positions, 85 permanent civilians and 2,272 students to Fort Sam Houston, Pentagon officials said earlier this year.

But BRAC also recommended that 24 military and two permanent civilian positions, as well as nine aircraft, transfer to Sheppard, according to the Air Force's BRAC Web pages.

BRAC officials required the aircraft and some student-pilot training to shift from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia to Sheppard.

It's uncertain what recommendations might come out of the upcoming BRAC hearing on Capitol Hill while it moves forward at Sheppard.

"The perspective out here is BRAC 2005 is law, and that's where we're going," said retired Col. Tom Wheylan, president and chief executive officer of the Sheppard Military Affairs Committee.

Ortiz said the hearing won't open up the whole BRAC process again, and there's not much that can be done now with BRAC law.

But lawmakers want to look at what might have gone wrong with BRAC, an inefficient process in his opinion, he said.
"We're hoping that this last base closure commission was the last one," he said.

Skelton opted for a BRAC hearing after concerns arose over the closing of Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, according to an Oct. 3 letter from Skelton to Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.

Skelton is concerned about growing costs, falling savings and "mission degradation" during realignment projects, he said in the letter.

"If these troubling trends continue, they represent a clear challenge to the BRAC 2005 process and will ultimately alter our methods to address excess infrastructure in the future," Skelton said.

A Defense Department spokesman said BRAC decisions were based on military value.

"Cost savings is certainly a part of that estimate," Chris Isleib of the DOD said. "But there are other issues that factor into that decision process, as well."

Washington correspondent Trish Choate can be reached at (202) 408-2709 or [email protected]

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