PALLONE, HOLT RESPOND TO ARMY'S TESTIMONY BEFORE BRAC COMMISSION
After the completion of a three-hour Capitol Hill BRAC hearing, U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) said they believe that the Department of Defense substantially deviated from the criteria it was supposed to use in making its recommendations.
The two New Jersey lawmakers attended today's hearing, during which the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commissioners heard from the Secretary of Army, Dr. Francis Harvey, and several other officials from the Army on the Pentagon's justifications for its base closure recommendations released last Friday.
BRAC Commissioner, Philip Coyle was the first to voice concern when he questioned whether or not Fort Monmouth's skilled workforce would be lost with a move to Aberdeen, and whether the military would lose the technical communications capabilities crucial to our troops if a significant portion of the workforce decided not to leave New Jersey. Coyle also stressed the need to look at this BRAC differently since it comes during a time of war.
Several times during the hearing, Secretary Harvey stated that "there is a concern and a risk" in moving Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen, Maryland, while BRAC Commissioner James Bilbray told Defense Department officials that he disagreed with their decision to close Fort Monmouth.
"I've been through several BRAC rounds in the past and this was the first time I heard reservations expressed publicly from both commissioners and the Department of Army," Pallone said. "It's significant that concerns were raised about whether or not the Army could continue to provide the technological expertise to our troops in the field if Fort Monmouth was closed. After listening to the testimony, it was also quite evident that the Pentagon under-valued the military value of the research, development and logistical work done at Fort Monmouth. As far as first days go, the Fort faired well."
"I think the Pentagon leadership has badly understated the consequences here," Holt said. "That was clearly the point that Commissioner Bilbray was trying to convey, about the risk associated with breaking up a talented and experienced group of technical experts in the middle of an open-ended global war. The last thing we want is for a soldier in the field to call back home for a new technology of the type that Fort Monmouth produces today, and be told, That guy doesn't work here any more , and we haven't found his replacement yet.' Compromising Fort Monmouth's capacity will put soldiers at risk."
The two New Jersey congressmen today also sent a letter with U.S. Reps. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) to BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony Principi requesting that the regional BRAC Commission hearing for the Mid-Atlantic be held in Eatontown, New Jersey so the Fort Monmouth community can attend. BRAC Commission regional hearings should take place in either June or July.
"We are writing to ask that you hold the Mid-Atlantic hearing in Eatontown, New Jersey, the home of Fort Monmouth," the four lawmakers wrote in their letter to BRAC Commission Chair Principi. "New Jersey is the region's most severely impacted state, and we believe that a hearing near this facility will enable the BRAC Commission to hear from the community directly and honestly about the impact Fort Monmouth's potential closure would have on our war fighters in the field."
Pallone and Holt, co-chairmen of the Save Our Fort Committee, also received assurances today from U.S. BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi that he would visit the Fort in the coming months. The two lawmakers sent a letter to Principi on Monday asking that he come to Fort Monmouth to see, among other things, the technologically advanced systems developed at the Fort for our troops in Iraq.