Springfield State Journal Register

March 25, 2004

Base closure report poses threat to Guard, Reserve stations

By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - A Pentagon report to Congress affirming the need for a new base-closure round next year includes data that could pose a threat to National Guard and Army and Air Force Reserve facilities in many states, including Illinois.

The document, released late Tuesday, would appear to raise less of a threat to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center and Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. But it indicates that the Rock Island Arsenal could be a target of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission.

The report does not cite specific installations as possible closure or reduction targets, but provides data on types of activities.

In the required report, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld certified that "the need exists for the closure or realignment of additional military installations," based on a calculation that the armed services have 24 percent excess capacity in their facilities.

The calculated excess is based on a comparison of existing facilities and a projection of the forces the services will have in 2009. The estimated excess varies among the services: 29 percent for the Army, 24 percent for the Air Force and 21 percent for the Navy and Marine Corps.

But the calculation of surplus varies even more widely by category of facilities.

The report said the Air Force Reserve and the Air Guard have 36 percent and 34 percent, respectively, more aircraft parking space than they need and that more than half of the Army Guard's and Reserve's large training areas are excess.

Those figures raise particular concerns when combined with Army plans to change some Guard and Reserve combat units to other functions requiring less training space and a possible Air Force move to merge more of its active and reserve flying units.

Although the report estimates the Navy has 18 percent excess capacity in its training facilities - not including air training - that is not likely to threaten Great Lakes, which includes the Navy's only recruit training command and some of its most modern craft- or skills-training facilities.

Illinois does not have a large reserve training area, although it has numerous Army Guard and Reserve centers around the state and several command headquarters in the Chicago suburbs.
But the Illinois Air Guard has two installations that might be considered for adjustment by the next BRAC commission.

Springfield's Capital Airport hosts the 183rd Fighter Wing, whose F-16s have been deployed to the Persian Gulf region in recent years. The closest active Air Force facility, Scott near Belleville, has transport aircraft and would not be a likely home for the fighters.

Scott, which has active, guard and reserve transport and tanker aircraft and is the headquarters of the U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Force's Air Mobility Command, could be vulnerable from estimated excess in several categories. The report found 27 percent excess parking space for large
aircraft and 31 percent extra administrative facilities.

But the base controls the worldwide movement of transport and tanker aircraft and Navy cargo ships and has received hundreds of millions of dollars in new computers, equipment and facilities in recent years, which would make it more expensive to relocate. Some units based there, however, could be closed or reduced.

Peoria Airport is home to the 182nd Airlift Wing of the Air Guard, which flies C-130s. The commander of the U.S. National Guard recently said he may have more C-130s than the Air Force needs.

An Army finding in the report that it has 43 percent excess capacity in its industrial facilities could increase the threat of closure to the Rock Island Arsenal, which has been operating at less than full capacity. The arsenal employs about 6,000 civilians and a few military personnel to produce weapons, tools and other equipment. It was considered by a previous
BRAC.

Under current law, the BRAC process is scheduled to start no later than March 15, 2005, after the appointment of a nine-member commission.

Although Rumsfeld certified in the report to Congress that reduction in facilities is necessary and could save billions of dollars, some members of Congress are determined to stop the process. Similar attempts failed last year.