Mayor Tommy Battle: Army Push for Next Round of BRAC in 2017 an ‘Opportunity’

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The Army will soon begin the push for a new round of base closures to start as soon as 2017, an effort sure to be met with staunch resistance from our friends in Congress.

“Congressional delegations have not wanted to face a BRAC because it’s painful,” explains Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Anybody’s district who loses jobs – it costs them in the idea of the popularity of a BRAC movement.”

 Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, told Army Times officials will make their case for a new round of consolidations – a process known as Base Realignment and Closure or ‘BRAC’ – at the Association of Defense Communities Installation Innovation Forum next week.

The defense dollar is a shrinking dollar, especially with the continued effort to draw down troops overseas, and the Army wants to get the most bang for its buck.

The Army wants to get rid of nearly a quarter of excess inventory in an effort to save more than $2 billion over the next five years.

Previous BRAC talks sparked fierce opposition in Congress and alarm in many military-heavy communities.

But not Huntsville. The possibility of another BRAC as early as 2017 is seen by area leaders as more of an opportunity than a cause for concern.

“When our area hears about a BRAC we look at it as potential, as opportunity” the mayor says. “With every opportunity you have to be prepared for it and we prepare ourselves on a day-to-day basis for BRAC.”

The mayor cites efforts over the past 10 years like installing new roads and sewer systems, improving our school systems and putting all the infrastructure in place to make a potential influx of military families work.

Battle says just as community leaders prepared for BRAC 2014 and 2015, Madison County and the Tennessee Valley are poised for any future gains – even if they come as perceived loses in other areas.

“We see areas where we have expertise and where we can leverage that expertise to make gains for the Tennessee Valley – and that’s a good thing,” Battle finished.

For anyone involved in the decision-making process, BRAC conversations are like one big, fluid cost/benefit analysis.

Congressional leaders, including some in Alabama, have said they will not support a new round of BRAC. The 2014 appropriations bill stopped the Pentagon from spending money on the process and the 2015 bill passed in January cut $8 million the Secretary of Defense had appropriated to BRAC planning efforts.

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