Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Supporters say Travis AFB is safe from BRAC

Article Last Updated: Monday, May 09, 2005 - 10:27:55 pm PDT

Supporters say base is safe

By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - Will the name Travis Air Force Base be on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's base closure list?

Most likely no, the base's supporters say. "I feel confident that we will hear good news," Fairfield City Manager and Travis Community Consortium chairman Kevin O'Rourke said. Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce member Bud Ross expects Travis to add missions, not close its doors. The Pentagon is looking to pare down its installations by between 12 and 25 percent "and it only stands to reason that the remaining bases will have to pick up some of that inventory," Ross said.

"We are becoming a nation of rapid deployment," Ross said. "We are no longer a nation of forward deployed forces. We are now an expeditionary force and that's why mobility to such an important part of the military."Rumsfeld is expected to release his list of recommended closures and realignments by Friday, although the deadline isn't until Monday. Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan predicts Travis will gain missions, but warned not to relax until the entire process is over when President Bush approves the final base closure list. Supporters such as Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said he is hopeful Travis will not be on the list, "but there have been some strange decisions made in the past on realigning and closing bases.""It will be a wild ride from the day the list is announced," Reagan said.

Reagan cautioned that supporters of those bases on the list may be lobbying to replace their base's name on the list with Travis' or to steal missions from Travis."This is something that will have to be lobbied through September," Reagan said. "Just because we may not be on the list Friday, doesn't mean we can put our feet up and say we dodged the bullet," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo.California will take some hits due to the number of bases still in the state, Augustine predicted, especially since the Pentagon is looking to close such a large percentage of its installations."Some installations in the state have had their usefulness diminished, but Travis is not one of those," Augustine said. Travis plays a key role in the Air Force alone, not counting the need for bases allowing the military access to the Pacific. Instead of closing, Augustine sees the opposite."We are going to have a realignment that affects Travis in a positive way," Augustine said.

This means the possibility of additional Air Force units coming to Travis or an expanded Navy or Army presence since of the Pentagon's emphasis on joint-use bases where more than one service is stationed there. Closing Travis would mean losing the massive investment the military has made in the base facilities in the last 20 years, shutting down David Grant Medical Center and finding a new base that could accommodate Travis people and aircraft."If they move the reserve units, would they have the same success Travis has (in filling manpower needs of units such as the Air Force Reserve's 349th Air Mobility Wing)?" Augustine said. "I don't think so. "If, for some reason, Travis' name is on the list, its supporters have a window of about five months to make the case for it at hearings here and in Washington to convince seven of the nine commissioners of the base's importance."It is an uphill battle if it is on the list," Ross said. For Reagan, the first moves for Travis' supporters in that case would be examining why Travis landed on the list and whether there was any factual errors made in that decision.

The unthinkable means considering a civilian use beyond that of a military base if the campaign to keep Travis open fails, according to Augustine. This could include using the base for civilian cargo handling. "We will have to keep putting the word out not to be on the list, talking about the importance of Travis," Augustine said. And if Travis is not on the list, "we can't rest on our laurels," Ross said. "You have to keep vigilant throughout this process because anything can happen," Ross said.Once the closure commission is finished, the community still has to continue lobbying for improvements to the base, Ross said. "The reason that we are in good shape now is all the hard work we have done over the last couple of decades," Ross said.

Travis' supporters learned from the loss of Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo - which ended up on the 1993 base closure list - that even if you are a unique facility, you can be replaced. Not being on the list means looking to pick up the fruit that has dropped from those bases that are on the list." There are going to be a lot of missions that will be realigning," Reagan said. "Those are actually in flux. We should be looking through that menu of choices and make cases for bringing some of them here."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Article Last Updated: Monday, May 09, 2005 - 10:27:56 pm PDT
Travis supports hope that base doesn't make the BRAC list. (Judith Sagami/DAILY REPUBLIC)

Officials lobby for base

By Ian Thompson

- Travis Air Force Base's supporters will find out this week if their efforts to keep the base open has been effective.Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to release the list of recommended closures and realignments by Friday - and it could come as early as today.Supporters of every base in the U.S. are awaiting the report, which is expected to propose closing at least 12 percent, or 24 of the country's approximately 200 military bases.Rumsfeld has long backed the closure and realignment round, saying the military has too many bases and the money used in maintaining them can be better used on training and equipping American forces."Nobody can say for sure what is going to happen, but we feel confident that Travis is an extremely valuable military base," Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce member Bud Ross said.

For the past 18 months, the cutting edge of the effort to support the base's needs has been the Travis Community Consortium."All the things we could have done, we have done," said Fairfield City Manager Kevin O'Rourke, the consortium's chairman. "We are hoping all this hard work has succeeded."Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, voiced similar sentiments, describing local efforts as "indefatiguable."Tauscher has repeatedly contended that earlier Pentagon plans to close up to 20 percent of the military's bases is happening at the wrong time.She pointed out that Rumsfeld has cut back his his expected number of closures is a step in the right direction, boding well for the military as a whole."This is the wrong time for us to look at such wrenching round of base closings," Tauscher said, escpecially while the US is caught up in a very unconventional war and looking at bringing home thousands of troops from overseas bases.Before the consortium, local governments and organizations such as the Travis Regional Armed Forces Committee lobbied for the base on issues from affordable housing to encroachment, O'Rourke said.The creation of the consortium took the energy of the organizations and made it more focused."It has been a pretty united front that we have had from business to political, and the community itself has been supportive of Travis," Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said.This included repeated trips back to Washington meeting with members of Congress, the Pentagon and the federal government for money and missions for Travis."We have done everything we could," Augustine said. "We are fortunate to have Travis, a key facility in our national security network. The missions we have here can't be duplicated anywhere else."The area has been working on Travis' needs for years, according to Augustine, "and its not like we jumped into the fray when we heard there was going to be a BRAC.""Over the last 20 to 25 years, we have been very, very fortunate to get money for improving the base, transforming it from a World War II installation to a modern, highly effective base," Ross said.

The latest was the successful effort to get C-17 Globemasters jet transports stationed at Travis. Work already started on the facilities to take care of the C-17s and the first aircraft are expected to arrive next year."That is the solution to keeping the base viable," Ross said. "You can't wait until the last minute and hope you will be able to turn things around."Travis supporters grew concerned during the 1995 base closure round, when reports on Travis' viability stated the base had problems with air quality, housing availability and possible encroachment from new housing developments."We have been working as a community on this for over a decade," Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan said.

Fairfield and Vacaville has been studying the negatives for the past 10 to 15 years and working to eliminate those negatives."The negatives listed in the last base closure commission's report on Travis were that the base suffered from poor air quality, was threatened by encroachment and had a lack of affordable housing for military members.An improvement in air quality in San Francisco Bay Area removed the base's air quality issues.The successful and hard-fought battle to rein in growth on Fairfield's eastern boundaries with the creation of a Travis Preserve cut out the encroachment concern. A city and county alliance to preserve ranch land south of the base for possible future base expansion eliminated the encroachment threat from that direction.The combination of boosting military members' basic allowance for housing to pay for off-base housing during the last decade and the creation of programs such as the Military-To-Military rental housing listing made housing more affordable."We now have a healthy supply of rental property," Reagan said. "The allowance allows them to afford that, and this is despite the fact that the base has emptied out 800 houses on base."It has also helped Travis' chances that many of the old inadequate housing and facilities have been knocked down to make way for modern facilities, Ross said."This is the outcome of a decades long love affair this area has with the military," Reagan said. "We have put money into making sure the base is not closed."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

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