Vultures circle as fight to save Fort Monmouth continues

AFGE has long maintained that proceeding to relocate Fort Monmouth flouts the law signed by President Bush in November 2005. Local 1904 has tapped its meager financial resources to vindicate this position in federal court. Our lawsuit asserts the relocation of Fort Monmouth cannot proceed until and unless the Army satisfies Congress that the relocation will not adversely affect the war effort.

The Army has thus far failed to make such a showing and its purported attempt to do so is currently the subject of a Government Accountability Office investigation. Yet we are now witness to the spectacle of supposed representatives of those who would suffer the most financial harm proposing to help the Army. This is not contingency planning. It is aid and comfort to those who seek actively and aggressively to do the gravest harm to the region.

The proposal contains many assumptions and much unattributed information that can only be characterized as puzzling. For example, it foresees the auctioning of Fort Monmouth's land and facilities by the Army to a "master developer" who will undertake commercial development to be approved by the Army. Why should the Army approve plans for land it has already disposed of by sale?

There are two other complexities and sources of confusion: the proposal purports to use as a model a "privatization-in-place" policy "that the Department of Defense no longer uses and is thus no longer available," and the plan states that "creating and operating the partnership will not create nor continue or expand federal jobs or federal employment opportunities." Exactly what it will do besides seek $11.5 million from the state for "startup operations" may perhaps be discerned by those with more imagination or better inside information than I possess.

Contingency planning may be prudent sometimes, but aiding and abetting the opposition appears to me to be foolhardy, as does adding $11.5 million for fakery to a potential loss of $3.2 billion from New Jersey's economy.

The recommendation to relocate Fort Monmouth was fraught with flaws. The BRAC Commission expressed its skepticism by acting in an unprecedented manner to attach a condition to the recommendation requiring that the Army submit a report to Congress detailing how the proposed move might be accomplished without jeopardizing the global war on terror. The report belatedly submitted by the Army is the subject of a federal investigation.

In January, several of New Jersey's congressional representatives sent the U.S. Attorney General a letter detailing apparent violations of law and requesting that the Department of Justice undertake a criminal investigation into the BRAC process. That request was refused.

The process that spawned the apparent misrepresentations to the BRAC Commission in 2005 is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General. I am hopeful some of the perpetrators, their handiwork and perhaps their motivation will be brought to light.

Congress has now expressed in no uncertain terms its lack of confidence in the BRAC Commission approach. The 2009 Appropriations Bill expressly repeals the commission approach to base closure and realignment by eliminating the commission entirely.

A true win-win is to save our fort from corrupt and unlawful actions. AFGE will continue to do its utmost for the sake of our warfighters, our communities, our citizens and Fort Monmouth employees.

John R. Poitras is president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1904.

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