Locals waiting for BRAC decision

By Ed Brock

Like many other businesses in Forest Park, Attina's Music Store in Forest Park is waiting for the final word on the fate of Army Garrison Fort Gillem.

"We did a lot of business with those guys. A lot of guys came over at lunch time," said Jonathan Brown, an employee at the store. "It's not going to be good for us."

Fort Gillem and its parent facility in Atlanta Fort McPherson have been included on the Base Realignment And Closure list and will be closed unless the special BRAC Commission that is currently considering the list votes to remove them. Last month retired Army Gen. Phil Browning, Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee, laid out the state's defense of the forts at the BRAC Committee's regional hearing in Atlanta.

"We believe we've done the best we can," said Fred Bryant, also with the military affairs committee.

The key factor, Bryant said, will be to convince the BRAC Commission that they would save more money keeping the forts open.

On May 13 the Department of Defense released its version of the list that included in Georgia the two Army forts as well as the Naval Air Station in Marietta and a Navy Supply Corps School in Athens. When the committee passes the list on to President Bush in September he will approve all or none of it, but cannot remove individual facilities.

Browning defended the forts on the basis of what he called the Army's four main criteria that were used for judging each facility. Criteria No. 1 was "mission capabilities versus impact on warfighting," No. 2 was "training land and facilities," No. 3 was "ability to accommodate mobilization and surge" and cost was supposed to be the last of the four criteria.

On the basis of cost, Browning said the numbers provided by the COBRA analysis were inaccurate, that the costs of moving some units was higher than what was given and some costs were not included. For example, the 2005 COBRA model lists $79.4 million as the cost of building new headquarters for three units stationed at Fort McPherson, U.S. Army Forces Command, 3rd U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve Command, but Browning said the actual cost would be $277 million.

Also, the COBRA model didn't take into account the increase in travel cost that would be incurred if the three headquarters are moved away from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The Save Forts Gillem and McPherson Foundation is still working on sending the certified numbers to the commission that will show that Browning wasn't just giving his opinion during the hearing, said foundation head Tom Salter.

Although the chances of having the forts removed from the list is only 10 percent, Salter said he's remaining optimistic.

"I prefer to look at the glass as 10 percent full, not 90 percent empty," Salter said.

Meanwhile, last week the commission voted to add eight more bases to the list, none of which were in Georgia.

"It's done for comparison reasons," Bryant said.

Bryant said the commission is expected to vote on the list on Aug. 23 or 24, but since they must then compile the report it will still be September before their decision is released.