Delaware Officials Announce Plans to Make Presentation to BRAC Commission
Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Tom Carper (D-DE), Congressman Mike Castle (R-DE), Governor Ruth Ann Minner and County Executive Chris Coons announced today that, at their request, Delaware has been given the opportunity to make a presentation before the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission regarding the Department of Defense’s (DOD) decision to significantly alter the mission and structure of the Delaware National Air Guard Unit in New Castle County. Delaware has been granted 30 minutes at the July 8, 2005 BRAC Commission regional hearing in Baltimore, Maryland, to argue that the DOD did not accurately assess the military value of the New Castle County Air Guard base and significantly underestimated the negative security impacts and economic costs of transferring all of the Base’s C-130s and associated manpower, aeromedical evacuation unit, and firefighters to other locations. The regional hearing was originally only scheduled to include Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. Delaware’s elected officials were able to convince the Commissioners to add Delaware to allow them to present their case. The elected officials said in a joint statement, “We are grateful to the Commission for allowing us to make, what we feel is a strong case for keeping our Guard unit intact. It is our contention that the DOD did not accurately evaluate the base in several specific areas. In addition, the overall process followed by the Air Force did not properly account for the unique nature of the Guard. It is also clear that important homeland security and regional concerns were not properly incorporated in the analysis.” The Commission, made up of nine members and chaired by the former U.S. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Anthony Principi, is charged with assessing the DOD’s May 13, 2005, recommendations pertaining to the realignment and/or closure of the nations military installations. The Commission will perform an independent analysis and evaluation of the list. They are expected to hold hearings to determine the final BRAC list throughout the summer, culminating in Washington, D.C. on August 23. They will then submit their revised list and report of their findings to the President on September 8, 2005. The President must then either forward the report to the Congress, which then has 45 days to reject the recommendations entirely, or return it to the Commission for further evaluation. Congress may not make any amendments to the recommendations. If Congress does nothing, the recommendations become binding after 45 days. If the report is returned to the Commission, the BRAC Commission has until October 20, 2005 to resubmit its recommendations to the President. If those recommendations are returned to the Commission then the process ends with no actions. Otherwise, the President must submit the recommendations to Congress by November 7, 2005. Again, Congress has 45 days to enact a joint resolution to reject the report in full, or the recommendations are adopted and the report becomes law. Since the DOD recommendations were announced May 13th, Delaware’s elected officials have been gathering information and compiling evidence in support of the Base’s military value and to clarify the degree to which the Air Force deviated from the legal criteria for recommending closures and realignments. Governor Minner also sent a letter to DOD Secretary Rumsfeld to notify him that she does not approve of the recommendation to alter the Delaware National Guard. The day the recommendations were announced, Delegation members called General Daniel James, Director of the Air National Guard, to discuss the real impact of the recommendations. The delegation and the Governor sent letters to the Commission requesting a site hearing. The next week, the delegation sent a letter signed by other Members of Congress asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate areas of specific concern to Delaware. The County Executive and Governor’s office began compiling data related to the economic impact of the closures and their impact on homeland security and emergency response capabilities. On Monday, June 13, 2005, Senators Biden and Carper, Congressman Castle, Governor Minner and County Executive Coons and their staffs presented preliminary information to two BRAC Commission staffers. Just today, the delegation sent a letter to the Commission and Congressional Armed Services Committees asking them to hold hearings on the sustainability and effectiveness of “enclave” bases (bases like NCC that will lose their flying units, but will stay open for Expeditionary Combat Support units). The delegation, Governor and County Executive expect to continue their efforts over the next two months. The time and speaking order for Delaware’s presentation on July 8th has yet to be determined. More information will be available in the coming weeks.