ST. MARYS — Officials with the Department of Defense are asking permission to establish a new base realignment and closure commission as a way to make the most of a limited military construction budget.
Closing bases would enable the military to spend construction money on facilities and other projects that are needed. The last BRAC commission met in 2005.
While a new BRAC has not been approved, the fact that the issue is on the table is potentially good news for Camden County.
“From a taxpayer standpoint, I salute the Pentagon wanting to seek BRAC approval again,” said Keith Post, the Navy League’s Georgia state president. “The fact, according to them, that we have 20 percent more shore-based infrastructure than we need as a nation spread out across the country, says all you need to know about the waste of money to maintain those facilities. This has occurred while other things such as funding for shipbuilding and ship and base maintenance have taken a back seat or have been non-existent.”
Sheila McNeill, former national Navy League president and director of the Camden Partnership, said she isn’t concerned about Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay being targeted for closure. Instead, she believes Kings Bay could grow under the right circumstances.
“I think there are opportunities for Camden County in a BRAC,” she said. “As a taxpayer, you have to be happy they’re doing this.”
McNeill said she has been trying to convince the Navy to home port some Virginia Payload Module fast attack submarines at Kings Bay.
Post said keeping bases open when they are no longer needed is a “terrible waste” of limited resources.
“The fact that we even need a BRAC to begin with, tells the story of the lack of backbone that some of our elected federal representatives have, when they put district or state ahead of country,” Post said. “That is not the right way to run a Defense Department.”
Post said he recently met with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who has been working to gather facts about all the military bases in the state to determine how best to protect them.
“Our current Trident submarines based at Kings Bay are the front lines in our nation’s strategic nuclear deterrence, along with those at our sister base in the Pacific Northwest, and those subs will soon carry 70 percent of the nation’s nuclear forces,” he said.
Post expressed concerns about the Camden County Joint Development Authority’s decision not to budget $55,000 in annual funding for the Camden Partnership, especially with the possibility a BRAC is coming.
“We were ready to receive new missions during the last round of BRAC, when Subase New London was on the chopping block, but was ultimately saved,” Post said. “There are opportunities for us to explore in a BRAC, such as a Riverine Force or Virginia Payload capable submarines, with the 17,000-plus acres that our Navy base has.”
Post said it’s also possible new assets could be added to two Coast Guard units in Camden County.
“This effort by the Pentagon to get a BRAC approved means we need to be ready and the county/JDA needs to find a way to fund The Camden Partnership,” he said. “This is one of the core missions of this group since its founding and is why we need The Camden Partnership perhaps now, more than ever.”
McNeill said she expects to play a role as an advocate for Kings Bay if the creation of a new BRAC commission is approved.