Monday, November 08, 2004

Travis well positioned for expanded missions

by Bud Ross - Daily Republic

People often ask how Travis Air Force Base will likely fare in the current round of Base Realignment and Closure Commission deliberations.

There are criteria changes in this round of BRAC that place added emphasis on the ability of bases to support "joint" (Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force) war fighting, training and readiness. This is driven by the transformation of our Armed Forces toward jointness and rapid response.

Military value and flexibility will drive the decision during this process..

While no one can say for certain how Travis will be affected by the BRAC, there are several positive factors in the base's favor:

Infrastructure improvements: Deteriorating and difficult-to-maintain buildings have been replaced by newer, energy efficient ones.

A modern control tower and radar approach control facility have been built along with new aircraft operations and maintenance facilities. The underground petroleum refueling system is being upgraded. Modern on-base housing has been built and older substandard houses razed. More than one million square feet of obsolete temporary buildings have been removed, enabling siting and construction for new missions.

New Missions: The newest airlifter, the C-17, will soon call Travis home. Important Navy and Army units are located here and there is the possibility of a Coast Guard presence.

Unimpeded Operations: Air space and training routes are unencumbered. A portion of the land east of the base, formerly known as the Wilcox Ranch, was purchased by the county and Fairfield from the Nature Conservatory through negotiations. The land will continue to be used for agriculture until such time as needed for base expansion.

Land-use restrictions around the base are in place to ensure there is no incompatible development to jeopardize operations. Moreover, there is adequate expansion capability in the "Travis Reserve" to accommodate additional base housing and administrative/logistics facilities, if needed.

With the Bay Area's recent improvement in air quality, there should be little difficulty getting additional air emission credits for new missions.

Strategic Location: Travis remains at the center of inter-modal transportation hubs like the ports of Oakland and Stockton, has ready access to Interstate 80, is near major intercontinental rail heads and is near international passenger and cargo airfields in San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento. It can quickly support the movement of West Coast military and homeland defense units including National Guard and Reserve.

Homeland Security: After 911, the base became the platform for fighter aircraft protecting the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and the Silicon Valley. State and federal relief efforts for Northern California such as earthquake or man-made disaster will likely focus on Travis. Its emergency response capability is well known. Unlike many California hospitals, David Grant Medical Facility was built to withstand earthquakes.

Additional Missions Capacity: Travis is well-suited to accommodate additional DOD and DHS missions which are natural fits. Rapid mobility capability makes Travis a perfect location to house fast-response teams like FEMA, and Army and Air Force Guard and Reserve units.

There are also great opportunities to combine Defense Logistic Agency operations closer to the where the "rubber meets the ramp". Ample munitions storage areas formerly used to support Fort Ord can readily accommodate combat-arms units.

Community Support: Commander after commander say that community support for Travis is unsurpassed. The TRAFC, comprised of civic leaders, Solano County chambers of commerce, elected officials at city, county, state and federal level, meets monthly to exchange information. TRAFC also hosts a number of events for Travis military personnel throughout the year.

Members of TRAFC have gone to Washington, D.C. to champion new military construction and new missions for the base. Members of Congress have been well-positioned and very supportive in keeping Travis well-financed. Members of TRAFC and other community groups have worked successfully to make affordable off-base rental housing available to Travis personnel. They have also gone to bat for more equitable housing allowances.

Travis is truly a gem in our National Defense System. However, the decision of which bases remain open is ultimately political. One can never be certain the decisions will be driven by "facts" so much as by the "factions" within the process.

That is why TRAFC, Solano County, all the cities within the county, Solano Community College and the Solano Economic Development Corporation have joined forces in an organization called the Travis Community Consortium. This group funds lobbying efforts to keep Travis viable.

Both groups will work hard with our Congressional representatives to ensure Travis remains essential and relevant in our nation's defense. Together we will get those new missions and evolve beyond what was yesterday's mode of operations.

Bud Ross is chairman of the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee.

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