Regions Fight Losing Battles to Keep Their Military Bases Many Areas Could Lose Billions in Benefits When Cuts Come

Article excerpt

THE next round of United States military base closures is looming.

Across the country, governors, mayors, and business leaders are raising money, hiring lobbyists, doing all they can to prevent their military installations from becoming casualties in next year's decisions.

The threat of base closure has pitted city against city and service against service. San Antonio has four Air Force bases and one Army base in the region, for example. The Air Logistics Center at San Antonio's Kelly Air Force Base is competing against similar facilities in Utah, Oklahoma, Georgia, and California. Two of the five logistics centers are likely to be closed. With 70,000 jobs and almost $4 billion in direct economic impact on the city annually, the military is one of San Antonio's biggest employers.

But no matter how much money or effort they invest, many cities will be disappointed. More than half of the 470 military installations now operating in the US could be closed during this fourth and final round of base closures. In the three previous rounds, 250 other bases were recommended for closure. That many more could go next year alone, up to 70 of them major bases.

Tom Houston, the staff director of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (DBCRC), says he has had more than 100 visits from regional delegations this year. "Communities today are just so much further along in planning for this process than they were in 1991," Mr. Houston says.

"We have been in close touch with local commanders to ensure the bases are as productive and cost effective as possible," says Paul Roberson, a retired Air Force brigadier general who now works for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. "We are trying to identify issues that would affect the Department of Defense's view of our facilities."

San Antonio's low labor costs could help it retain its bases, but the city's ongoing water problems could hurt it. The largest city in the world completely dependent on groundwater, San Antonio may not have enough water to assure the Pentagon that all its bases can continue operating.

In Utah, the governor and local governments have raised $700,000 in their effort to keep Hill Air Force Base operating. …