2005 may seem like a long way off, but preparations are already under way for Base Realignment and Closure Recommendations (BRAC) slated for 2005.
There have been two BRAC rounds in the last 15 years and scores of military bases around the country have been closed or realigned.
The process is fairly straightforward. The Secretary of Defense evaluates all facilities using an established set of criteria and weighted formula. After a review and revision process involving the president and a national commission, the president will certify the closure list by November 7, 2005. Congress then has 45 days to pass a motion of disapproval or the closure list becomes law.
Some have suggested that the 2005 BRAC round will be the mother of them all because of the need to cut military costs and because this round may be the last of several such efforts.
The activity is highly emotionally charged due to the economic impact of local military bases in their neighboring communities.
In Pierce County, the two bases – McChord and Ft. Lewis, in addition to Madigan Army Hospital – create the single largest economic influences in the South Sound. With over 40,000 jobs, uniform and civilian, the overall impact of payrolls, contracts and associated activities are in the billion-dollar category.
Already the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has launched the Tacoma-Pierce County BRAC Citizens Committee to help support our bases, to pursue any additional opportunities or missions that might be transferred to our area and of course to defend against any possible downsizing or closure.
There is not an immediate concern about the local bases future and viability due to their strategic significance and their critical role in mobilizing for modern warfare.
Chamber staff has successfully assisted local congressional staff in two prior BRAC rounds. Congressmen Adam Smith and Norm Dicks have agreed to serve as honorary vice chairs of this effort. President of Brown and Brown, John Folsom, past Economic Development Board chair and current chamber board member, is now serving as chair of the BRAC Committee.
Direct staff assistance will be provided for the local effort through the Gary Bracket, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber manager of business and trade. Brackett assisted with the two previous BRAC rounds and has lived in the Tacoma area over 20 years after leaving the Air Force, with final stationing at McChord.
David Graybill is the president and CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. His column appears from time to time in the Index.