A new round of U.S. military base closures could be on the horizon, potentially affecting more than two dozen Texas installations from Del Rio to Grand Prairie. The U.S. Department of Defense banned what’s known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2005. But the Trump administration may revive the program, and some lawmakers could help expedite that process.
San Antonio Express-News Senior Reporter Sig Christenson says the push for reviving the base-closure program comes from U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington). Christenson says Smith is pushing to amend the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which prohibits such closures.
“[Smith] has submitted an amendment to the NDAA that would break out exactly what we would do in another BRAC,” Christenson says. “But the larger question is whether there is a lot of political support for it from either side.”
Christenson says military base closures are contentious — Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who chairs the Armed Services Committee, is against the idea. Indeed, Christenson says McCain’s goal is to secure more funding for the military, not less.
“If we are going to expand the military, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Congress to start closing bases,” Christenson says.
If a BRAC effort does succeed, Christenson says a likely scenario would include reducing headquarters and converting single-purpose bases to multi-use installations. Christenson says he believes 23 bases closed and 2,500 bases were realigned as part of the 2005 BRAC.
“People in Texas would have to be concerned about Dyess, because Dyess is a single-use mission,” Christenson says.
If Abilene’s Dyess Air Force Base’s mission is moved, it would essentially be a shutdown of that unit, which Christenson likens to the past closure of two San Antonio installations. But he also points out a difference in tactics used to “soften the impact” of those closures.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve had very bright and progressive leadership,” Christenson says. “That has made a big difference for Kelly, which is now Port San Antonio. And it’s made a big difference for Brooks, which until recently was called City Base.”
Christenson predicts “people will fight like cats and dogs” to preserve their bases. In places like Texarkana, home of the U.S. Army Red River Depot, he says the loss of a base would be economically devastating, putting “thousands and thousands of people” out of a job.
Written by Louise Rodriguez.