Forts look good for BRAC list

By Ed Brock

Fresh from a tour of some facilities on Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park, U.S. Congressman David Scott is feeling confident about the fort's future.

"In my next meeting with (Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld I'm going to let him know that this is 'Pentagon south,'" said Scott, referring to Fort Gillem and its parent facility Fort McPherson in Atlanta. "You can't close Pentagon south."

The concern about the possibility of closing the base comes from the planned release this spring of the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list. The list is expected to reduce military infrastructure by 25 percent.

On Tuesday Scott, D-Georgia, went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Logistics Center Atlanta at Fort Gillem where he received an update on the aid the center had provided to victims of the hurricanes that tore through Florida and Alabama last year.

The center provided space for the marshaling of relief supplies and housing units that were bound for both states, according to Fort Gillem spokesman Ron Morton.

"I thought it was very good to have FEMA there," Scott said. "It increases the value of Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem."

It's just another "feather in our cap" for the bases that shows the bases versatility and multiplicity of services along with their value to the surrounding community, all good reasons not to close the base. Right now the forts are in a good position to stay off the list, Scott said.

"You take a tour of that base and you see nothing but new construction going up," Scott said.

Fort Gillem will play a major role in supporting and maintaining the Atlanta to Lovejoy commuter rail line scheduled to begin operations in 2006, Scott said, and no other facility has the same value as these forts.

In general Georgia may gain more than it loses in this realignment, said Fred Bryant, a member of the Save Forts McPherson/Gillem Foundation Inc. and deputy director of the Georgia Military Affairs Council.

"I think all of the bases in Georgia are doing as well as they can at this point," Bryant said. "I believe Georgia is going to be very competitive in this round."

While some communities may lose their facilities, others could gain troops and missions as part of the realignment, Bryant said.

If Fort McPherson or Gillem do end up on the DOD list in May, Congress still has to approve the list. Scott said he would certainly fight for the forts in Congress, too, if it comes to that.

"I don't want it to get to that point," Scott said.