Pentagon eyes base closures in 2017
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton could be targeted for closure if budget cuts outlined on Monday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel become a reality.
Hagel, who is proposing cuts that would slash military spending by billions of dollars to pre-World War II levels, stated that he will push congress to conduct a round of base closures in 2017, NBC News reported.
Fort Hamilton, which has survived previous base closure proceedings, could be in real danger this time, advocates said.
“We’re going to have to start gearing up again to make our best argument for keeping it open,” Bill Guarinello, chairman of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The committee is made up of civilians; business and civic leaders in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst who advocate on behalf of the fort to the federal government.
The fort is the only active military post in New York City.
Built in 1825, the fort is located on the Bay Ridge waterfront. The fort’s main gate sits on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 101st Street.
Every few years, congress authorizes a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to come up with a list of military facilities to close. The most recent BRAC took place in 2005. Fort Hamilton survived the cut that year and made it through previous BRAC procedures. But advocates said they are worried about the fort’s future.
“Personally, I think they’d be crazy to close it, especially with everything the fort did during and after Hurricane Sandy”, Guarinello said. “It was the staging area for the recovery effort for the whole region. You couldn’t do it in South Jersey because it was devastated. We had all of the generals coming in and out of here. We will have to bring that to everyone’s attention."
The fort was designated as a Base Support Installation to facilitate Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. The base provided soldiers and civilians responding to the disaster with staging areas, food and housing and logistical support.
The fort also played an important role following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to advocates, who said the base was a staging area for National Guard troops.
It’s not a certainty that a new BRAC will be formed in 2017, despite Hagel’s budget cut proposals. The defense secretary admitted in his remarks that congress rejected two Defense Department requests to form BRACs in recent years.
Under the plan outlined by Hagel in a press briefing at the Pentagon on Monday, the army would be reduced in size to 440,000-450,000 troops, the lowest level since 1940, when it had 267,000 troops.
The current troop level is 520,000.
Fort Hamilton operates under the joint command of the Installation Management Command and the Military District of Washington. The fort is home to the North Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New York City Recruiting Battalion, and serves as a military entrance processing center for all branches of the service.
The fort also provides services for more than 50,000 active, reserve and retired military personnel and their families.