Army Secretary McHugh Supports Another Round Of BRAC
Army Secretary John McHugh said Wednesday that he strongly supports another round of military base closures.
"We in the Army, in fact the entire department, believe it's past time for another base closure round," he said during a budget hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations in Washington, D.C.
In the north country, where Fort Drum is critical to the local economy, this type of talk causes concern.
So far, Fort Drum has avoided falling victim to BRAC, which stands for Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
However, it's possible the local Army post could expand because of BRAC.
During the hearing, north country Congressman Bill Owens (D. - 21st District) specifically discussed Fort Drum and recent talk of locating a military defense system site on the post.
He asked McHugh if he expected to see a "concentration of platforms" (i.e. missile defense system) on existing installations as the Army consolidates.
"Do you think that that kind of activity is appropriate where we take an existing installation that's in excellent shape and house as many platforms as we can there," Owens asked.
"We think a base closure round would provide those of us in the Army the opportunity to shed excess infrastructure to save money and one of the results of that, obviously, are fewer post camps and stations and you try to make good strategic and tactical decisions as to where you put things. Fewer places, more programs. Those fewer places get more programs," said McHugh.
McHugh, who previously served as the north country's Congressman prior to becoming Army Secretary, said it's estimated that the Army is about 20 percent "over-structured."
"In other words, buildings that we have to heat that have no one in them, older facilities that require a great deal of maintenance, they're not really being used," said McHugh.
President Obama wants Congress to okay another round of BRAC in 2015.
In April, Owens said there will be little support for it on Capitol Hill and he would vote against it.
He reiterated his position again during a phone interview with 7 News on Wednesday following the hearing.
Owens, who is from Plattsburgh, remembers the BRAC process which closed Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1995.
"After having a miserable BRAC experience in Plattsburgh, I'm certainly not going to let it happen to my friends in Watertown," he said.