By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Fort Hamilton Army Base, the only active military post in New York City, could wind up on a list of facilities slated for shutdown if Congress grants a Pentagon request for the formation of a new base realignment and closure commission (BRAC) next year.
Katherine Hammack, the assistant secretary for Installations, Energy and Environment for the US Army, testified before the House Appropriations Committee on April 12, requesting that congress authorize another round of base closures in fiscal year 2015, according to a report on the army’s official website.
Fiscal Year 2015 begins on Oct. 1, 2014.
Hammack told committee members that as the army reduces the size of its force, it also needs to assess the size and scope of its infrastructure.
Under BRAC, a blue-ribbon panel of experts chosen jointly by congress and the president spends months assessing the country’s military bases and then comes up with a list of bases around the country to close or realign. Following the release of a preliminary list, elected officials and advocates for military bases lobby the commission’s members in an effort to get their facilities removed before the final roster is released.
Under federal law, congress must vote the entire finalized list up or down with no substitutions.
A new round of base closures takes place once every seven to ten years. The last BRAC took place eight years ago in 2005.
While it’s not certain that Fort Hamilton, a 188-year-old military base located in Bay Ridge, would be named to a closure list, advocates said they’re taking no chances and are already preparing an argument on behalf of the fort.
“We were told that it (BRAC) won’t be happening until 2014 at the earliest. But we’ve been meeting and we’re getting prepared anyway,” said Bill Guarinello, chairman of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee. “We’re re-doing our white paper and making sure we’re ready,” he told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The committee is composed of business leaders, local elected officials, community activists, and veterans all of whom work together to make sure Fort Hamilton remains open.
Military personnel are prohibited by the Pentagon from advocating on behalf of an installation.
Guarinello said the committee is prepared to argue that the fort is important to the nation’s national defense.
In December, Guarinello told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that the rescue and recovery job performed by military personnel at the fort in the wake of Super-Storm Sandy served as proof that the base is a vital part of life in New York. In the days after the storm, the fort was a staging area for National Guard troops assisting in the recovery effort.