— The general consensus among those entrenched in military affairs is that there will not likely be a base closure and realignment enacted in 2013 or 2015, but there is a strong possibility of one coming up in 2017.
With that in mind, representatives from Georgia's military installations are coming to the table to determine what might make them more valuable assets when it is determined which bases ought to be closed next.
The Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee (GMACC) wrapped up its quarterly meeting in Albany on Wednesday. The primary goal behind the meeting was taking a proactive approach to ensure the state's military bases can maintain a competitive edge.
The two-day gathering of the committee consisted of a briefing and tour at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany on Tuesday, hosted by the installation's commander, newly-promoted Col. Donald Davis.
On Wednesday, GMACC held a meeting and small group discussions at the Merry Acres Conference Center to get an idea on what the weaknesses were for each installation and propose what the plans were to fix those problems, as well as what it would take to maintain stability long term.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, whose district includes MCLB-Albany and Fort Benning, has encountered BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission) before through his position as a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.
"(It's important) for our facilities (in Georgia) to match requirements to make sure the desired resources are in place," he said. "We've been fortunate to be able to do that."
Regarding whether a BRAC round will be called for 2013, the opinion of most there on Wednesday was that it would not happen. It may not happen in 2015 either, but a 2017 BRAC is very likely, officials with GMACC say.
"Most feel now is not the time for another BRAC round," Bishop said. "Our situation is not clear enough to decide whether to downsize."
The United States is currently facing a $16 trillion national debt. A deficit reduction report from 2010 found that if the fiscal situation is not under control by 2025, the government will only have enough money to pay the interest on the country's debt, Bishop said.
The plans are to somehow cut $400 billion-$500 billion from the defense budget in the coming years. The Army may face a personnel cut of 72,000 to reach 490,000 by 2017, while the Marine Corps is looking at reducing personnel by 20,000 to reach 182,000 by 2016, with the Navy and Air Force looking at minor reductions, officials say.
Military pay could potentially increase by 1.7 percent across the board, a presentation given at the meeting said.
There have been two recent Army base closures in Georgia because of the most recent BRAC — Fort McPherson in East Point and Fort Gillem in Forest Park. The hope is now is to spare the installations left by putting them in a position to be more attractive on a national level.
Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, said the state is anticipating positions to be cut at its Air Force and Army installations, but said that there was no word yet from the Marine Corps.
"Georgia is a very military-friendly state, and we want to be the most military-friendly state," Clark said. "We are looking to fix problems and go out there after missions to be invested in Georgia."
The committee was divided up by military installation to discuss what could be done at the individual bases to help avoid BRAC cuts. Presenting the report on MCLB-Albany was Jeff Sinyard, Dougherty County Commission chairman and a member of GMACC.
Sinyard highlighted some strengths of the base, including the launch of the landfill gas project last year.
The primary weakness, he pointed out, was that the plants attached to Marine Depot Maintenance Command cater specifically to the Marine Corps, while it potentially could serve more than that.
"We do not have joint programs. That is a weakness," Sinyard said. "We could provide service to other branches of (the military)."
Sinyard also added that officials are working to bring in the National Guard in order to have another mission at the base.
The GMACC is scheduled to meet again in September with Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay as the hosting installation.