Budget no assurance local forts will stay open

By Ed Brock

President Bush's proposed budget for 2005 might include money for at least two projects at Army Garrison Fort McPherson in Atlanta and its sub-facility Fort Gillem in Forest Park, a state official said.

But that's no assurance that the forts will be safe from inclusion on next year's expected Base Realignment and Closure list, said Fred Bryant with Georgia Military Affairs Council. Bryant is also a member of the Save Forts McPherson/Gillem Foundation, Inc.

"I don't think it has an impact one way or another," Bryant said about the forts' inclusion in the budget. "It sends a signal at least about the president's commitment to the bases ? but it's too early to tell how it will impact the BRAC list process."

According to his sources in Washington, D.C., the budget Bush sent to Congress on Monday includes $4.9 million for a child development center at Fort McPherson and $5.8 million for a recruiting brigade operations center at Fort Gillem, Bryant said.

While Bob Bolia, a spokesman for the forts, said he hadn't seen the budget yet, he said both projects are needed.

"The recruiting battalion is working out of an old World War II building," Bolia said.

You can't draw any conclusions about future closures from the current operating budget, Bolia said. Even if the McPherson and Gillem projects had not been included in the Bush budget, it would not have said anything about their chances of staying open, he said.

"We have projects ongoing right now that were funded in last year's budget," Bolia said.

Those projects include a new facility for the Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillem and a new Reserve Center complex. A ribbon cutting for the $18.5 million Reserve Center is scheduled to be held Friday.

Other parts of Georgia's military community stand to benefit from Bush's proposed $2.4 trillion budget.

The state's military installations would receive $253 million for new construction, including a barracks complex and physical training center at Fort Benning and a command and control facility and an aircraft maintenance hangar at Fort Stewart.

There was also good news for several weapons systems with Georgia ties. The F/A-22 Raptor, manufactured in part at Lockheed Martin in Marietta, would have its construction increased from 22 this year to 24 next year. The total price tag of $4.72 billion is down somewhat, primarily because the program is moving beyond the research phase and into full-scale construction.

Funding for the extra two Raptors had been temporarily threatened last year when Sen. John Warner, R-VA., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he might block it because of a software glitch.

Marietta also works on the airframe for the C-130J transport, which would see its overall funding rise from $857 million to $1.5 billion.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.