The 2005 Base Closure Recommendations
Note: This list of likely base closures first appeared in January 2004 and has been updated as of February 1, 2005. Additional update comments formerly available only to G2mil members were added for all on December 1, 2004 to the bottom of this page.
The upcoming 2005 Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) commission will trim excess domestic base infrastructure, which is estimated at 25% too large and costs billions of dollars a year. Here is a detailed official list of US military installations in September 2002 which reveals that thousands of buildings and acres are leased. The BRAC can save considerable money if activities move so leases expire. In addition, heighten base security is now a tremendous financial drain, and older buildings constructed during the Cold war have decayed and need replacement. The four previous base closure rounds now save our military $6.6 billion dollars each year. Read this GAO report (pdf) for more information. Nevertheless, there is a movement to derail the next round of base closures by convincing people it is cheaper to keep all bases open and lease land to earn money; thus expanding what is known as Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) facilities. This robs local communities of business property taxes and rarely produces net profits as cozy relationships result in contracts in which the government still pays for property maintenance.
The 2005 round will begin in March 2005 when the President, in consultation with congressional leaders, will appoint the nine-member base closing commission. Two months later, the Secretary of Defense will submit his list of facilities to be closed. It will take a vote from seven members to add a facility to that list, but just a simple majority to remove a facility. The President may approve that list and send it to Congress, or reject it and send it back to the commission. Neither Congress nor the President can make changes to the list. If he accepts the list, it becomes law unless Congress votes against it within 45 days. This has never happened since Congressmen from districts spared closures think the list is fair.
Small military bases are inefficient to operate since each base usually has a housing office, equal opportunity office, public affairs, chapel, library, auto shop, medical clinic, dental clinic, commissary, exchange, base headquarters, base security, decal office, fitness center, reception center, swimming pool, child care center, enlisted club, officer club, teen club, family support center, temporary lodging, education center, dining hall, maintenance office, golf course, theater, post office, and various recreational facilities. Therefore, shifting "tenant" units to larger bases with room for growth saves a great deal of money and manpower in the long run, although moving units requires money for relocation and some new construction. Reserve, National Guard, and federal civilian activities at closed bases can continue as they do elsewhere without a military landlord.There is ambitious talk about "joint" bases. This will prove too complex because of budget conflicts. Base absorption is easier. For example, Pope AFB within Fort Bragg can be annexed by the Army, becoming Pope Field. Bragg can take over base operations at Pope, although the Air Force will still fund construction and renovation for facilities used exclusively by its units there. In exchange, McGuire AFB could annex small Fort Dix. Many bases can be saved by closing unneeded bases overseas.
Base closures also allow the elimination of outdated organizations which have been preserved as jobs programs by members of Congress. The Armed Services must realize they can eliminate these organizations by pulling the rug out from them by closing their base. They should identify these bases now so they can limit closing costs by quietly implementing a hiring and construction/renovation freeze at targeted bases a couple years early. Ironically, most communities benefit from base closures as property tax free and sales tax free military units are replaced by productive taxpaying private sector companies. Read: Closed Base Reuse Success Stories (pdf)
G2mil assembled a list to help the commission make the best choices and appreciates input. The Defense Logistics Agency is likely to close some facilities, but that will depend on reorganization plans so we made no attempt to guess closures. This is not an official list, just informed speculation gathered from hundreds of sources over the past two years.
US Army Base Closure List
The Army has done the worst job at closing excess bases, only closing one of its 30 largest bases in the four previous rounds-- Fort Ord. It just trimmed its World War II system of depots and arsenals which have massive excess capacity. The Army's excuse was that it must maintain room in case units are brought back from overseas. However, the Army has plenty of room in the USA for its seven brigades based overseas. Meanwhile, the Army wastes billions of dollars a year to maintain excess bases and civilian employees.
Ideally, the Army will return to its traditional role of defending the United States and redeploy combat units to the Mexican border, a mission it abandoned after World War II. This list may seem long, but it includes no major bases, no training areas, and will affect none of the Army's combat brigades. It closes a third of the arsenals and a few small "ivory tower" posts. This will eliminate enough military and civilian positions to man two more combat divisions, and save enough money to train and equip them. The Army's five depots may be trimmed should the Administration move toward privatization. Here is a July 2003 GAO Report about Army Depots (pdf) and a July 2003 article from National Defense magazine.
Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania - A small base with just the Army War College. It will be far less costly if the War College moves to Fort Leavenworth and shares facilities and staff with the Army's Command and Staff College, similar to the arrangement of other service war colleges. It could also move to the DC area and share resources with one of the DoD colleges. The Carlisle campus can immediately become a community or state college.
Detroit Arsenal, Michigan - This tank factory was shut down in 1999, yet the base remains with a huge staff of 128 military and 3479 civilians personnel in Detroit just to support the headquarters of the Army's Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command. This command can join its proponents at Fort Knox or move to Anniston Army Depot were much of it's work is actually done, or slide over to Selfridge Air National Guard base 22 miles away where many of their soldiers already live.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia (realign) - Critics often note there are over 100,000 servicemen in the Washington DC area, and not a single combat unit. Housing costs are high and traffic gridlock common. This is not place for an army base, which is why the Engineer school left in 1988 since one-third of the base now a nature preserve. Most commands here can relocate to any Army base. The Army pays to lease dozens of large buildings in the DC area, especially in Arlington, so several of those activities will move to vacated space at Belvoir.
Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico - This small base with over 2000 civilian employees has little military function whatsoever and can be turned over to the National Guard.
Fort McPherson/Gillem, Georgia - McPherson is an old, tiny base in Atlanta which is mostly a golf course with three headquarter units. The Forces Command can co-locate with the new Northern Command in Colorado, the Joint Forces command in Norfolk, or Army headquarters in Washington DC. The 3rd Army Headquarters is unneeded; it can downsize to fewer than a dozen soldiers and merge into the Central Command headquarters in Florida. (During the 1991 Persian Gulf, General Schwartzkopf determined it was much easier for CentCom to control Corps directly.) The Reserve Forces command can move anywhere. The sub-post called Fort Gillem can be turned over to the National Guard while it's reserve units, MEPS, and the AAFES distribution center remain.
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey - This base has 552 active duty troops and 5198 civilians just to host the Army's Communications and Electronics command. This headquarters can relocate with just a few hundred people to Fort Gordon, or Tobyhanna Depot where related equipment is repaired. Fortunately, private sector businesses are eager to develop the prime real estate at Monmouth. Another option is to just close the "base" and all that overhead to save millions of dollars a year and expect the couple hundred remaining soldiers to survive amongst the locals.
Fort Monroe, Virginia - This is a small, historic base which is costly to maintain, but could become a luxury resort or a National or State Park. TRADOC can move to any other fort in Virginia, or Fort Leavenworth where it can rejoin the Forces Command. The ROTC command can move anywhere.
Fort Polk, Louisiana (to realign) - The Army desperately needs a major urban warfare training center, and the north half of this base is ideally suited. North Fort Polk should be shut down and become a huge urban training area for the Joint Readiness Training Center. This will allow brigade size units to arrive by sea or at Polk's large airfield to conduct lengthy urban warfare exercises in a real city ten times larger than the quaint artificial villages used today. This may require some tenant units to move to other Army bases. Perhaps the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment can move elsewhere and a permanent urban ORFOR unit established.
Fort Richardson, Alaska - The Army does not need three bases in Alaska for a single brigade, especially since housing and operational costs are high. This small base does little except support the Alaskan National Guard, so turn it over to the state of Alaska and move the NCO academy and airborne battalion up to Fort Wainwright or elsewhere. Adjacent Elmendorf AFB may annex some buildings and family housing. However, a recent Army plan suggests Richardson as the home for new (smaller) Army light brigade.
Fort Sam Houston, Texas - This is a tiny (3000 acre), old base in a run down part of San Antonio with no training areas. The new Brooke Army Medical Center may be transferred to the Air Force or VA. There are no major army units near San Antonio so there is little need for a major hospital. Basic medical training can be performed at any Army base while the Medical Command can move anywhere; probably Fort Detrick. Reserve units can move to Camp Bullis 15 miles away where they already train.
Fort Shafter, Hawaii - The "US Army Pacific" doesn't need its own base with 1400 soldiers and 2000 civilians in expensive Hawaii. It should be eliminated or cut down to a dozen soldiers and based within the Pacific Command headquarters at Camp Smith, while other elements migrate over to Schofield Barracks. I Corps in Washington state can "command" the few army units in the Pacific. Recent reports are that the Army wants to expand little-used Camp Zama in Japan to house a major headquarters in the Pacific; I Corps would move there and absorb 8th Army from Korea and some elements from Shafter and Alaska.
Lima Army Tank Plant, Ohio - This is run by General Dynamics which does similar work at its Sterling Heights Complex in Michigan. Tank work is declining and there is no reason for the Army to own a plant used by private industry. Sell the plant to General Dynamics if they want it, or close it if they prefer to do work elsewhere. The Anniston Army Depot can also do future tank upgrades.
Natick Soldier Center, Massachusetts - This small facility is located in an expensive Boston suburb which is tasked with developing personal equipment for soldiers. Better work can be done at a major base where soldiers can help test gear and provide direct input; Fort Benning is ideal.
Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey - Very little is done there nowadays. Anniston, Aberdeen, Watervliet, and Red River have plenty of excess capacity to fill whatever need might arise. One Colonel who worked there stated they could turn out the lights and send everyone home tomorrow and the Army wouldn't notice. This will allow the base to retain its appropriate mission as a Moth Sanctuary.
Redstone Arsenal, Alabama - This is no longer an "arsenal", just a lot of office space. The Army turned over the large missile business to NASA in the 1960s, which runs the Marshall Space Center here. There are fewer than 2000 uniformed soldiers at this large base, mostly students at the Ordnance Munitions & Electronics Maintenance School. Since 90% of workers at Redstone are civilians, the Army should send its soldiers elsewhere to save millions of dollars in base operating costs each year, leaving behind NASA, a few DoD test facilities, and varied Federal agencies to operate on their own.
The schools can move to other bases while the Army's Aviation and Missile Command can move to Fort Bliss/White Sands where most development and testing actually occurs, or perhaps to Fort Rucker. Another option is to co-locate with the Air Force development center at huge Eglin AFB, Florida. Other activities can move to the Letterkenny and Corpus Christi depots, while the few Space related activities can move to the new Army Space Command in Colorado, or co-locate with the Air Force Space and Missile Command.
Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois - Very little is done here nowadays. Anniston, Watervliet, Aberdeen, and Red River have plenty of excess capacity to fill whatever need might arise. Most non-Army federal activities can remain.
Sierra Army Depot, California - This was mostly shut down since the 1995 BRAC declared it excess and environmental clean up began. However, the Army retained it to burn off surplus munitions from the Cold War. Since this produces toxic fumes, nearby citizens are furious and want it closed for good. The depot's burn mission should be complete by 2005 and Tooele Depot in Utah can burn whatever is left.
Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona - Aberdeen does the most "proving" for the Army, while Dugway has newer facilities and special equipment to test chemical and bio weapons. The little work done at Yuma can be easily done at Dugway, Fort Irwin, Fort Knox, White Sands, or elsewhere, as was demonstrated with the recent Stryker program. The test ranges may be preserved as part of nearby MCAS Yuma or transferred to the Arizona National Guard, but an active Army base is not needed unless the Army puts troops here to help defend the border.
If the Army withdraws armored forces from Europe as seems likely, Yuma is a great location for an armored brigade. A recent Army plan suggests Yuma as a base for a small armor brigade, and Dugway as a base for a small infantry brigade.
US Navy Base Closure List
The US Navy has done the best job in closing excess base capacity. It has shut down two major base complexes: San Francisco Bay and Charleston. However, the fleet has shrunk since the 1995 base closing round, so a few medium size bases and several small bases can be closed to save a couple billion dollars a year in overhead. Current Navy plans are to shrink further, from 313 ships in FY2002 down to 291 ships in FY2004. Recent news leaks suggest the Navy will decommission the USS Kennedy at Mayport, Florida, the only aircraft carrier based there. This suggests that Mayport may be closed, but that would be extreme as it would leave the Navy with only one major East Coast port for surface combatants.
Ingleside Naval Station, Texas - This is an underdeveloped base where the Navy banished its unwanted mine warfare ships. However, the Navy now acknowledges that it is very difficult for combat ships on each coast to train with mine warfare ships based in South Texas. Realizing these small, slow ships cannot rapidly deploy, the Navy has moved several overseas while others have been decommissioned early to save money. In addition, the only large ship at Ingleside, the helicopter carrier USS Inchon, was recently decommissioned and nothing will take her place. The Navy should move the remaining ships to a major base on each coast to join the rest of the fleet; Little Creek, VA and Point Loma in San Diego are ideal.
Naval Postgraduate School, California - This is a major hotel complex in scenic Monterey which the Navy acquired during World War II and never left. It is far from Navy bases and exists solely to operate a navy post-graduate school. This can be done at any major base with none of the overhead costs of operating an entire base. However, an article appeared Naval Proceedings in 2000 which questioned why the Navy runs its own post-graduate school when it's much cheaper to send students to the finest graduate schools in the United States, which offer the same courses and would provide officers healthy contact with outside institutions.
Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi - Over the past few years, the Navy and Marine Corps have reduced the size of squadrons and will soon eliminate several because skyrocketing aircraft prices do not allow all older aircraft to be replaced. As a result, they will need to train fewer new aviators each year. NAS Meridian is a small aviator training base that was on the 1995 closure list because its bad weather limits safe flying days. Unfortunately, Admiral Borda succumbed to political pressure from Mississippi congressmen and told the commission it was mistakenly put on the list. These training squadrons can move to the other three naval aviator training bases; NAS Corpus Christi has room after its mine sweeping helos departed. However, Meridian squadrons can just disband as the requirement for new naval aviators declines.
Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst, New Jersey - This is an old base left over from the era when the Navy developed most of its aircraft "in house". The Navy wanted to close this base in 1995, but a close commission vote kept it open. Its difficult to determine anything of value of done there today other than the minor task of aircraft carrier safety. Any activity can move to the larger naval aviation development base at Patuxent River, Maryland or the testing center in China Lake, California. Lakehurst is adjacent to Fort Dix and McGuire AFB so the problem of local retiree support and civilian job transfers are nonexistent.
Naval Recreation Station Solomons Island, Maryland - This is an old, unused base which evolved into a hidden navy resort. There are thousands of choices for private sector recreation in the Washington DC area, the Navy shouldn't spend millions of dollars each year to run an exclusive resort at taxpayer expense. Money is better spent improving recreational facilities at fleet bases where regular sailors can use them daily.
Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island - This is a small base whose few ships left a decade ago. It has extremely high housing costs and old historic buildings which are costly to maintain. It hosts several Navy schools which can relocate anywhere, ideally near major fleet concentrations so thousands of sailors need not PCS or go TAD to attend. The best known, the Naval War College, can locate with the Naval Doctrine Command in Norfolk, or the Marine Corps War College in Quantico. The largest activity at Newport, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, would fit nicely into the underutilized New London sub base near GD's Groton shipyard and submarine development complex.
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, California - This is left over from World War II and somehow survived the previous base closings, especially odd when the Long Beach complex was closed. It is located in the Los Angeles suburbs far from the ocean and over two hours drive from the San Diego fleet which it primarily supports with "assessments." If it is truly needed, move it to the San Diego area.
Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Indiana - This is left over from World War II when the Navy and Marines once developed their own weapons. This is now done in the private sector or at operating bases. Whatever relevant work can be found is best done near naval forces and not in a remote spot a thousand miles from any ship. The adjacent Army munitions facility may remain.
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, Virginia - NAVSEA is an amazing large organization with 37 R&D facilities in the USA. It employs an army of engineers and scientists, yet awards huge contracts to private corporations to design future ships and aircraft. In addition, the Naval Research Laboratory has several facilities spread around the country. Since the Navy now prefers to outsource its R&D, there is no need to retain this massive in-house capability. Dahlgren is tucked away in the middle of Virginia and far from any ship. Its traditional mission of munitions testing is very limited due to the rapid growth of nearby communities, so most all weapons testing is done at China Lake. Important activities and tenants can be merged into bases elsewhere.
The Navy has over a dozen "research" facilities in the Washington DC area and around Virginia which should be consolidated. In the September 2002 Naval Proceedings, Rear Admiral Rowland G. Freeman III (ret.) noted: "...focus got lost as the laboratories strove to become more like academic campuses [where] ferocious competition for dollars between the laboratories downgraded the technical and scientific effort." If the Navy fails to recommend some smaller "lab" closures in this region, Dahlgren should be axed to force change and save money.
Navy Supply Corps School, Georgia - A small base in Athens, which is in an odd location for the Navy. It can be moved to a major base to save money, manpower, and the air travel costs for student trips for ship familiarization.
New Orleans Naval Support Activity, Louisiana - During the 1960s, the Navy and Marines banished their reserve commands to decaying buildings at an old Army base in downtown New Orleans. These commands will be more effective and less costly at major bases where they can support reservists directly and interact with active forces.
Pascagoula Naval Station, Mississippi - This tiny base has just three old cruisers, two old frigates, and few base facilities. It is isolated from the fleet and its ships must steam for several days to participate in exercises off the Atlantic coast. The Navy can easily accommodate these ships at larger bases, but they will be decommissioned within a few years anyway.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, New Hampshire - The Navy has far more shipyard capacity than it needs. Portsmouth was to be included in the 1995 base closure list, but President Clinton was said to have exerted inappropriate pressure on the commission to spare it since the important New Hampshire presidential primary race was underway. Portsmouth only works on attack submarines, work which can be done by several underutilized public and private sector shipyards.
Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit, New York (includes Ballston Spa, Scotia) - This small, inland base was overlooked in previous base closure rounds. Nuclear power training can be consolidated in Charleston since the number of nuclear powered subs has been cut, while the regional recruiting office can move to any Navy base along the New England coast. A Los Angeles class submarine scheduled for early decommissioning may be added to Charleston to provide a third reactor for training.
US Marine Corps Base Closure List
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia - This Korean war era base is far from any major air or seaport, and far from any Marine units. As a result, the Corps built a seaport logistics facility at Blount Island near Jacksonville, Florida in the 1980s. Albany should close with its activities moved to Blount Island, Camp Lejeune, and Quantico to save money and provide superior support. The Marines have recently funded a major expansion of Blount Island to perform overhaul and inspection work adjacent to ship piers rather than hauling equipment hundreds of miles to and from Albany. A recent DoD report noted that Albany was one of the nation's most underutilized depots.
The manpower and money saved should allow the Corps to open a spare parts facility at a US Navy base in Italy and another in Bahrain to greatly improve support in those regions, and replace its two ageing aviation maintenance support ships in Baltimore.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California (realign) - This World War II base is far from any major air or seaport, and far from any Marine units. It is actually three bases, the Yermo maintenance and storage area, the main base eight miles away at Nebo, and a rifle/pistol range complex. Logistics activities can provide superior support at Camp Pendleton or 29 Palms, or if forward-based in Guam or Okinawa. However, the desert air is ideal for storage of excess equipment. Therefore, the base may "realign" becoming the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Base 29 Palms with a dozen Marines supported by a hundred civilians. This annex will be for storage, although some maintenance work may still be done.
The Nebo complex and rifle range area can transfer to the US Army. Fort Irwin is nearby and needs the family housing and some buildings. It is also an ideal location for a heavy Army Reserve or National Guard armor unit. The rest of Nebo can become an urban warfare training center which Fort Irwin needs as a modern National Training Center, which it can share with the Marines.
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California - Budget problems caused by high-priced aircraft will force the Corps to eliminate over a dozen flying squadrons during the next decade. The Navy-Marine TacAir plan calls for the Corps to eliminate seven fighter-attack squadrons to afford the F-35/JSF. While Miramar is a beautiful base, it is surrounded by a booming urban area whose vocal residents complain about noise, which is why the Navy happily left in 1997.
Miramar has the highest off-base housing costs of any air station, and training is limited by congested civilian air traffic and quiet time for the locals. Moreover, San Diego needs another airport and Miramar is the only practical location. Dispersing Miramar aircraft to other Marine Corps and Navy air stations will save the Corps millions of dollars each year. If such a move is considered too costly, the Corps can "sell" Miramar to the city to fund new facilities elsewhere. More details can be found here: Dispersing MCAS Miramar.
Marine Corps Mountain Warfare School, California - this tiny base in the midst of a huge national forest was founded during the Korean war to prepare Marines for mountain warfare. It was mothballed during the Vietnam war as the Corps determined it was no longer needed. For unknown reasons, the base was later reoccupied even though the Corps hasn't been involved in mountain warfare since Korea. Note that Marines in Afghanistan didn't engage in "mountain warfare," they stayed on roads. Later Army units marched through mountain trails, but didn't engage in the type of World War II Alpine "mountain warfare" taught to Marines.
This school absorbs funds and manpower needed for new urban warfare facilities elsewhere. Marines can attend US Army or foreign mountain/winter warfare schools on occasion, but such training should be a low priority. Marines are a rapid reaction force, which always involves urban areas. The rare mission of chasing guerrillas or terrorists in mountains should be left to specialized Army units. The base should be mothballed and returned to the US Forest Service again, or possibly transferred to the California National Guard for urban warfare and mountain warfare training for all armed services.
Marine Reserve Support Unit, Kansas City - This is a tiny base with 200 Marines which somehow ended up in Kansas City. It should move to any Marine base, probably co-located with Marine Forces Reserve, which will also move from New Orleans. (see Navy list)
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California (realign or close) - This tiny, concrete base is the worst place to train new recruits. The roar from the adjacent airport is constant while tourists roam about gawking at recruits and taking photos. Training facilities are so limited that recruits already move 40 miles north to Camp Pendleton for their final four of eleven weeks.
There are three options: 1) move MCRD up to Camp Pendleton; 2) move MCRD to Nebo at Barstow (see Barstow above); 3) expand MRCD Parris Island, which already has the capacity to double its load, although facilities would need to be modernized. The US Air Force trains more airmen recruits each year at one base in Texas, and the Navy trains twice as many at a single location. A major war would quickly empty most of Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejuene, providing ample facilities for another MCRD to support a major war.
The city of San Diego wants this base to expand its airport. However, if the Marine Corps closes MCAS Miramar instead, it may keep "Marine Base San Diego" because of its ideal location near the Navy. It could accommodate the Reserve Support Unit from Kansas City, reserve headquarters from New Orleans, a small Marine Corps Logistics Facility (from Barstow), or any Navy or Marine unit which needs space in the San Diego region. Another option would be a small Marine Corps Air Facility which uses the runway at adjacent civilian Lindbergh field. This could accommodate the VIP aircraft and C-130s from Miramar and maybe a reserve F/A-18 squadron.
US Air Force Base Closure List
The Air Force conducted a 1998 study which concluded it could cut its overhead costs in half by consolidating into 20 megabases. The average Air Force base is less than half the size of a typical Army, Navy or Marine Corps base (based on active duty population). As a result, these small bases become dysfunctional whenever their operational wing deploys overseas because it takes many airmen which the base itself needs, like security personnel.
In addition, the Air Force must eliminate half its active, reserve, and air guard fighter and attack squadrons in the coming years to afford ultra-expensive F/A-22s and F-35s; it has already eliminated eight squadrons since 1997. The number of B-1B bombers was recently cut by one-third, and the number of aerial tankers will be cut as some old KC-135s are replaced by larger tankers based on the Boeing 767. Here is detailed data on the Air Force inventory. Finally, fewer aircraft require fewer pilots, so fewer pilot training bases are needed. As a result, the Air Force will have twice as much base capacity than it needs. Some of this problem is easily solved by closing outdated bases overseas, but dozens of smaller domestic bases must also be closed.
Consolidating Air National Guard units into nearby bases of any service can yield tremendous savings and improve security. For example, there are eight KC-135s at Sky Harbor airport while Luke AFB is 24 miles away; a few C-130s operate from leased space at Oklahoma City's airport when the large Tinker AFB is just a few miles away; and an F-16 training wing at Tucson's Airport is just five miles from Davis-Monthan AFB. Maxwell AFB hosts just nine reserve C-130 aircraft while an Alabama fighter wing leases a civilian airport nearby. For some reason, Massachusetts and New York state have numerous Air Guard bases not too far apart.
The Clinton administration attempted to minimize base closures in 1995, due to that President's view that our military is a jobs program. Fortunately, the 1995 commission closed two of the Air Force's five huge air logistics centers despite objections from the Clinton administration and powerful Senators. Most all of the bases on this list are recommended for closure simply because they are the smallest Air Force bases in the country. It's no secret the Air Force will soon move bombers and maybe tankers to empty Anderson AFB in Guam. Wright-Patterson, Vandenberg, Patrick, and Arnold are large airbases, but host no active-duty flying wings. Another option is for Lackland to absorb the adjacent Kelly "reserve" airfield and add a wing there. Malmstrom has vacant hangars and a closed airfield that hosted a tanker wing until a few years ago.
This looks like a big list, but includes no major air force installations and doesn't cut even half of what is needed for the 20 mega-base concept. In fact, the number of airmen at all bases on this list is fewer than the number of soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. Keep in mind that moving Air Force wings may be unnecessary as the Air Force will deactivate several wings in the coming years.
Altus AFB, Oklahoma - A small base whose transport training wing can move to a larger base, possibly Tinker where a transport training wing was based until 1969. The C-5 training mission can easily move to Lackland-Kelly.
Bolling AFB, Washington DC - A small base in a crowded, high-cost area. The Air Force band and honor guard can move to nearby Andrews AFB. The adjacent Anacostia annex of the Washington Navy Yard can expand slightly to encompass the Defense Intelligence Agency complex and the USAF headquarters building, which may be transferred to the Navy should those Air Force shift activities to Andrews. If the Air Force remains, it may retain some housing as Anacostia becomes a "joint" annex, while the rest of Bolling is transferred to other federal government agencies or to the District of Columbia.
Brooks AFB, Texas - A tiny non-flying research base in an old area of San Antonio which is virtually shut down. The Air Force wanted to close it in 1995, but it was spared because the commission chose to close the large Kelly Air Logistics Center nearby.
Cannon AFB, New Mexico - A small base whose fighter wing can move to a larger base, but will probably be deactivated.
Columbus AFB, Mississippi - A tiny base whose training wing can move to a larger base with better flying weather. It may just be deactivated since fewer pilots will be needed as the future Air Force will have fewer aircraft.
Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota - A small base whose bomber wing can move to another base. Since the Air Force has just cut one-third of its B-1Bs, it may be best to deactivate that wing.
Goodfellow AFB, Texas - A tiny and remote non-flying base used for skills training which can move to a larger base. It could remain open by expanding and adding a basic flight training wing.
Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota - A small base whose refueling wing can move to Malmstrom or Seymour Johnson. Tankers from this base require two or more hours of flight time to support operations along the coast or overseas deployments.
Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts - A small research base with no aircraft. The Air Force may continue to fund research with MIT, but there is no need to keep 2000 airmen running a "base". Any pure Air Force work can be moved to other underutilized Air Force Research labs.
Kirtland AFB, New Mexico - Special Operations activities will move to Hurlburt Field, Florida, perhaps Moody AFB or any desert airbase. Sandia National Lab will remain while other Air Force activities move elsewhere.
Los Angeles AFB, California - A small base whose only tenant is the Space and Missile Systems Center. However, there are no space facilities or missiles nearby because its located in a crowded and expensive section of Los Angeles county, which is why it has been considered for closing in past rounds. This command should move to a real "space" base like Vandenberg or over to March, leaving behind the contracting squadron in a single building and closing the Fort MacArthur base support complex 18 miles to the south. Another option is to co-locate with the USAF Space Command in Colorado.
McConnell AFB, Kansas - A small base whose refueling wing can move to a larger base, probably to one of the bomber bases in nearby states or to Tinker. There are also plans to base more tankers at MacDill AFB Florida as the KC-767 enters service.
Nellis AFB, Nevada - This is a medium-size base whose units are better off elsewhere. The rapid growth of Las Vegas has almost enveloped the base causing community conflicts due to noise and demands for connecting roads through Nellis. Security is poor since the airfield is close to a major road with dozens of aircraft parked outdoors during exercises, while thousands of tourists visit the "Thunderbirds." In addition, the federal government has restricted growth in Las Vegas because air pollution becomes trapped in that valley, while Air Force jets at Nellis spew out tons of pollutants. Nellis is also an ideal location for a much needed civilian airport. More details are in this article: Moving Base Has Advantages.
The Development Wing can move to Edwards AFB, California or Elgin AFB, FL. The Thunderbirds, Red Horse, and 66th Rescue squadron can move anywhere. The Air Warfare Center "Red Flag" can move north to the nearly vacant Tonopah Field in central Nevada. Weapons School can also move to Tonopah, or join the Navy's "Top Gun" school at NAS Fallon, Nevada to ensure joint doctrine.
Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina - (to realign) The F-15 fighter wing can move, while an active KC-135 tanker wing is added. This base is much better located for tanker ops than those in the Mid-West.
Shaw AFB, South Carolina - This is a medium-size base, but the Air Force will cut its fighter squadrons in half and something must be shut down. This base may be preserved if a fighter wing based overseas returns.
Vance AFB, Oklahoma - A tiny base whose training wing can move to another base, possibly Holloman. A training wing may also move to Goodfellow AFB, or to Kelly Reserve AFB which may be annexed by adjacent Lackland AFB.
Ideal Base Size
Many readers have asked about the ideal base size. The best measurement is the total number active duty and civilian employees, which range from 1000 up to 50,000 at megabases. Modern military bases are expected to provide so many base services that small bases are extremely inefficient. On the other hand, megabases present nice nuclear targets and tend to dominate local economies. The federal government pays no local property taxes, exempts servicemen, their family members, and retirees from paying on-base sales tax, and usually expects local schools to pay for the education of military children (even those living on-base) and only reimburses part half the cost.
This is why so many communities have prospered after their bases shut down, like those near the former Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro. See this editorial and Closed Base Reuse Success Stories (pdf) for more information. Keep in mind that shutting down a base doesn't meaning shutting down everything. Government agencies, reserve units, and even military hospitals may remain as area governance reverts to the local county.
Megabases impose intolerable burdens on local communities which result in lousy schools and a run down infrastructure. Megabases are also impersonal for young military families who need a second car just to get around the base. Therefore, the best base size is from 10,000-20,000 personnel, and the 2005 BRAC should shift some activities from megabases to smaller bases with room to grow. Local housing costs must also be considered. For example, a married soldier in Alaska must be paid ~$15,000 more a year than one in Kansas to live off-base. Once again, this is not an official list, just bases likely to be closed. This list is continually modified with reader input so comments are welcome.
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
March 2004 - BRAC update
The G2mil 2005 list of likely base closures has generated tremendous interest from the media and politicians. Therefore, I am limiting this update to G2mil members. The Pentagon's official list is mostly complete, but will not be released until early next year. Apparently, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is pushing for more closures than the Generals have proposed. The President's FY2005 budget was released February 2, 2004 and includes proposed spending for new military construction and base housing. Any base with no new projects is suspect for closure, while any base with numerous projects is likely to expand. You can find the list here: FY2005 Family Housing and Military Construction Request. The lack of new construction at 98% of the bases on the G2mil list supports those predictions. Here are inside perspectives.
I found an excellent 1999 RAND study on US Army bases: Land Use Strategy. It provides a list of Army bases that are overcrowded; like Fort Hood and Fort Benning. The Army will officially move four heavy brigades out of Germany. It is unclear if these units will move back to the USA, or move to Iraq permanently. If they move to the USA, here are the options:
Fort Knox - had an independent armored brigade which was deactivated in 1995. It is already home to the Armor branch and has a new urban warfare training area.
Fort Bliss - had an armored brigade until 1997 (the 3rd ACR). It was moved to Fort Carson so Bliss could become an air defense Mecca. However, the Army plans to eliminate ten air defense battalions, and Bliss has an amazing one million acres of maneuver room.
Fort Lewis - The Army has no heavy brigades rapidly deployable from Pacific ports. The terrain at Fort Lewis is poor for tanks, but the huge 325,000 acre Yakima training area is two hours away. In fact, the Army may just put a brigade there and expand that undeveloped base.
Fort Yuma - This "proving ground" is on G2mil's list of likely closures since it is not used much. However, it is close to Pacific ports and Fort Irwin, and has a million acres of maneuver space. It could easily become "Fort Yuma" again.
Fort Irwin - The Marines might abandoned its administrative base at Nebo just down the road from Fort Irwin. The Marines do the actual logistics work ten miles away at Yermo; Nebo is just overhead. If Rumsfeld succeeds to privatizing most logistics and shifting these uniformed Marines to operating bases, Nebo is surplus. The Marines already plan to convert 1372 uniformed positions to civilian during 2005. If Nebo is transferred to the Army, it can provide an instant base for an Army armored brigade, with easy access to NTC and west coast ports.
Here are other events which may effect closures.
Fort Buchanan - is on the G2mil closure list. However, with the surprise sudden closure of the Navy's base at nearby Roosevelt Roads, that may change. The base serves little purpose, but DoD may want to retain an active footprint in Puerto Rico.
Redstone Arsenal - is on the G2mil closure list. However, there is talk of expanding the base instead, consolidating some Army Material Command units there, perhaps moving some from rented space in Arlington, VA. The FY2005 budget contains one construction project, but that is Phase 2, and funded "Defense Wide". As I noted, most the facilities can continue to function if the Army landlord leaves.
Watervliet Arsenal - There is talk of privatizing this base by selling it outright. I think it's a bad idea since profit minded owners will lay off skilled gun tube makers when business is slow, then gouge the Army whenever it can since it will be the sole supplier of gun tubes. However, the "base" overhead can close while the Army still runs the Arsenal with Army civilian personnel.
Fort Richardson - There are several small FY 2005 construction projects requested, probably to appease powerful Senator Ted Stevens. However, if the active army leaves as G2mil predicts, these facilities could still be used by the Alaskan National Guard and adjacent Elmendorf AFB.
Fort Shafter - The US Army is pulling out of its large headquarters complex at Yongsan in Seoul, Korea. There is talk that 8th Army headquarters will disappear, and a new Army headquarters will form at Camp Zama, Japan. Perhaps I Corps in Washington state will move there, or perhaps US Army Pacific will move from Shafter to Zama.
There is talk about whether the Navy and Air Force air logistics centers will be shut down through privatization. That is a political decision difficult to measure. If a Democrat is elected President, this is unlikely. There is talk that one carrier battlegroup might shift from the Atlantic to Guam or Hawaii, but that shouldn't affect bases. I suppose Mayport, Florida could be shut down since its aircraft carrier is slated to be decommissioned, but that would be extreme. Otherwise G2mil's Navy list is considered solid.
Point Loma (San Diego) - the Navy may pull its few attack subs from this small base; it recently added attack subs to Guam and also has room in Bangor, Washington since some Tridents are gone. However, Point Loma is an excellent location and the Navy has limited pier space near its ships at 32nd street, so some surface ships may move over. It is also a good spot for some mine warfare ships from closing Ingleside, TX.
NAS Barber's Point, Hawaii - was closed in 1999. However, it has not been redeveloped and would be an ideal spot for a new Pacific carrier air wing. Also, the Marines will soon leave MCAS Futenma after years of pressure by locals in Okinawa, Japan. Perhaps the Marines will move more squadrons to MCAS Kanehoe Bay and push Navy squadrons back across the island to Barber's Point.
US Marine Corps
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany - The Corps has already begun a major expansion of its logistics facility at Blount Island near Jacksonville, FL for the Albany shutdown. DoD recently announced that 1372 uniformed Marines will move from base support jobs to the operating forces in 2005. Yet another sign Albany will close.
MCAS Miramar - the politicians in San Diego have begun to realize the city is better off if this base is closed, but they are keeping quiet to evade the few loud base supporters. Marine Generals love this base, but Marine Aviation is heading for a train wreck and needs to save money; Miramar is surplus and costs over $200 million a year to operate. Current plans to quadruple procurement for new Marine aircraft over the next fours years are unrealistic to say the least. Local studies for a new airport have found only two practical locations, MCAS Miramar and Camp Pendleton. The Marines have denounced the Camp Pendleton idea as impossible, but haven't commented on Miramar.
US Air Force
Beale AFB - has been dropped from the G2mil list. We had noted that Beale is little used, although ideally located near the west coast and Nevada training ranges. It was destine to expand or close. However, the USAF loves the new long-range Global Hawk UAV and is buying more while the FY2005 budget contains funds to build Global Hawk support facilities at Beale. I suspect they will add more units from other closed bases.
Homestead AFB - The Southern Command is likely to leave its expensive leased space in Miami and move to a military base. Local political leaders are suggesting little used Homestead AFB to the north. Ironically, Dade County wants to close that base for conversion to an airport. However, it is home to reservists and several federal agencies so the Air Force is resisting. Another option is for the Southern Command may move to Tampa since it appears the Central Command may remain in Qatar permanently.
MacDill AFB - in Tampa will now gain 40 KC-767 tankers to replace half as many KC-135s. So it will remain open, gaining units from closing tanker bases in the MidWest.
Los Angeles AFB - It looks certain the Space and Missile command will leave, but where? Large March AFB is an hour away. The main building near LAX may become an annex for March and the few dozen contracting officers who work there can commute or take a daily Air Force bus from March. This simple change would save millions of dollars a year and local governments would come out ahead by collecting property taxes from new tenants and the houses at Point MacArthur. However, there is discussion about moving the entire command to Kirkland AFB in New Mexico or Colorado.
Shaw AFB, South Carolina - is on the G2mil closure list. However, there is talk of pulling some USAF flying squadrons from Germany back to the USA. On the other hand, delays in the F-22 and now the F-35 will reduce the number of fighter squadrons in the future.
September 2004 - BRAC 2005 update
Once again, no official BRAC list will appear until March 2005. One factor is who will be President at that time. The Bush administration is openly planning a big BRAC, one that will close more bases than the four previous BRACs combined. They also hint that all government run arsenals and depots will be closed or "privatized." Note that all three service secretaries (e.g. Army, Navy, Air Force) were executives with major defense contractors who would love more government business. I had a first hand report from the Army Aviation Depot in Corpus Christi that large numbers of helicopter industry types have been touring and taking notes. While these depots may officially "close", many workers will be rehired by private industry to perform the same task at the same location.
John Kerry is a career politician who commented that it may be a good idea to delay the 2005 BRAC. However, this is unlikely because Kerry wants to spend more money and the savings from BRAC will come in handy. This entire BRAC process was organized by the Bush administration, so Kerry can avoid political fallout by simply accepting the Bush plan. Delaying it for two years only pushes the burden on him and moves it close to the next election cycle. However, Kerry is more a socialist at heart and is likely to scale back the privatization idea. He may also spare some bases as political favors to those who help him win key states. Likewise, if Bush wins he is likely to modify the list to help those who helped him.
Although the BRAC process is designed to avoid politics, the President and the armed services do not want to antagonize powerful Congressmen, so Senator Ted Stevens' clout may save unneeded Fort Richardson, while Senator Carl Levin may keep the Detroit Arsenal (e.g. office complex) open. On the other hand, the departure of powerful senators like Trent Lott means payback time for Mississippi. We left Gulfport off the list because Mississippi had three other small bases more likely to close. However, with planned Navy manpower cuts, distant Gulfport (a Seabee base) could close as well.
The Army has sent one of its brigades from Korea to Iraq for a year, then it will move to the USA. The Army has also announced that three of its four brigades in Germany will move out. It is curious that a future home for these brigades has not been announced. Either the Bush administration plans to permanently base them in Iraq, or is saving this announcement until October to bolster voter support with good news about improving the US military while adding base jobs in some areas. The Army has announced that some bases will gain troops as more combat brigades are organized from resources freed by eliminating Army base activities elsewhere, primarily in Korea and Germany. In other news, the Army General in charge of developing infantry gear at Fort Belvoir has become "dual hatted" and now also commands the Natick development near Boston; so good bye Natick.
A bomber wing is likely to move to Guam. Minot AFB could be affected as it is often rated the worst quality of life base in the USAF. However, the nearby missile silos cannot be moved, so Minot is more likely to downsize, or perhaps a tanker wing will be added. Here are the details: US Military Spreads its Wings in Asia. The article mentioned a fighter wing, but I suspect that could be the F-15s from Okinawa, making room for Marine aircraft from adjacent MCAS Futenma, which will close to defuse local anger. The USAF recently moved a C-130 squadron from Yokota (near Tokyo) to Guam. Dedicated Air Force Reserve bases like Grissom are likely to close. It costs much more to maintain these stand alone reserve bases for a couple small squadrons than to maintain the same squadrons on active duty status at active duty bases. Here is a 1998 GAO report on the savings of operating larger squadrons at fewer bases.
Aviation Week (05-31-04) quotes a senior USAF official that the ARNG will lose some 500
fighters in the next few years, mostly F-16s, due to attrition. Delays and
soaring costs for the F-22 and now F-35 aircraft means the active USAF will have
few fighters to pass along to the reserves. This
has been factored into the upcoming base closure analysis.
The official mentioned the Air Guard F-16 squadron in Richmond VA will be
gone. However, the USAF will
establish an Air Guard section at Langley which will fly F-22s. In
other articles, various officials have mentioned that maintaining full-time Air
Guard facilities adjacent to civilian airports just to support a few aircraft is
extremely expensive and they will likely close.
has been factored into the upcoming base closure analysis.
The official mentioned the Air Guard F-16 squadron in Richmond VA will be
gone. However, the USAF will
establish an Air Guard section at Langley which will fly F-22s. In
other articles, various officials have mentioned that maintaining full-time Air
Guard facilities adjacent to civilian airports just to support a few aircraft is
extremely expensive and they will likely close.
In other articles, various officials have mentioned that maintaining full-time Air Guard facilities adjacent to civilian airports just to support a few aircraft is extremely expensive and they will likely close.
A phone call from a former submarine officer to discuss if New London will be closed led to further research, and this was added to the list:
Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island - This is a small base whose few ships left a decade ago. It has extremely high housing costs and old historic buildings which are costly to maintain. It hosts several Navy schools which can relocate anywhere, ideally near major fleet concentrations so thousands of sailors need not PCS or go TAD to attend. The best known, the Naval War College, can co-locate with the Naval Doctrine Command in Norfolk, or the Marine Corps War College in Quantico. The largest activity at Newport, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, would fit nicely into the underutilized New London sub base near GD's Groton shipyard and submarine development complex.
I've come across several recent articles and studies:
BRAC to the Future - a good overview
Official DoD BRAC website - Note the links to the "Military Department BRAC sites." Their old service reports about the last BRAC in 1995 are interesting as they discuss individual bases. The four previous BRACs were frequent: 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995. Since the last BRAC was ten years ago, saving bases because a state is still adjusting to the economic changes from previous BRACs is not a factor this time. For example, the Navy noted that there were several bases in California it would like to close, but only put Long Beach on the list since California was hard hit by the 1993 BRAC. This resulted in the addition of this base to the list:
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, California - This is left over from World War II and somehow survived the previous base closings, especially when the Long Beach complex was closed. It is located in the Los Angeles suburbs far from the ocean and over two hours drive from the San Diego fleet which it primarily supports with "assessments." If truly needed, it can move to a Navy base in the San Diego area.
March 2004 DoD Report (pdf) - This report found 24 percent excess capacity across the military. More specifically, the Army has 29 percent, the Air Force 24 percent, the Navy 21 percent and the Defense Logistics Agency 17 percent, according to the report. No bases were specifically cited, but Defense officials did break down excess capacity by type of work. Among the largest areas of reported excess were: Army research, testing, development and evaluation facilities and laboratories (62 percent); Navy inventory control facilities (60 percent); Air Force classroom training space (45 percent); and Defense Logistics Agency distribution depots (20 percent). Given those numbers, the Navy supply activities in Mechanicsburg (near Philadelphia) may close, and all the excess Air Force classroom space makes Keesler AFB, Mississippi and unattractive Maxwell AFB, Alabama targets.
May 2004 GAO Report (pdf) - details on the BRAC process
GAO BRAC related reports - a historical list compiled by Globalsecurity.org
New 2011 Overseas Base Closure List - close these outdated bases ASAP