LAWMAKERS REACT TO RELEASE OF GAO AUDIT THAT CITES CHALLENGES WITH FORT MONMOUTH CLOSURE
U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) and U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced plans to request additional Congressional hearings in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which detailed how the Army planned to move from the base at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
The GAO report, issued today, is an audit of a December 2007 Department of Defense (DOD) report, which outlined challenges the Army faces in implementing the move from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen without disrupting support for the Global War on Terror.
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission required the DOD to submit a report outlining how the move can be accomplished without disrupting the Global War on Terror. The lawmakers were then successful in encouraging the GAO to audit this report to ensure the DOD had met the requirement set forth in the BRAC process.
Reacting to the GAO audit today, the New Jersey lawmakers expressed concern regarding an estimated shortage of 2,200 positions at Aberdeen in 2011 when the move is planned to take place. The GAO report also notes that officials at Fort Monmouth are working on an overarching plan to guide the transfer of the fort's functions to Aberdeen. The lawmakers will request additional details from the DOD regarding these mitigation strategies that, on the surface, appear to be unrealistic and unattainable.
"This GAO report clearly shows that the Army will not be able to move from Fort Monmouth without adversely affecting the Global War on Terror," Pallone said. "There is no way for the workforce at Aberdeen to adequately provide support for our troops when estimates show that the workforce will not be reconstituted and fully trained until 2024. My colleagues and I will use this new information as further evidence that additional Congressional oversight is essential."
"We cannot put the intelligence and communications on which our troops rely on in jeopardy," Holt said. "Unfortunately, as this report makes clear, they would be at grave risk if Fort Monmouth were to close. If the work at Fort Monmouth weren't important to the lives and effectiveness of our troops, maybe they could justify this move, but as is, this is without justification."
"The GAO report shows that under the best case scenario, the Army will still be at least 2,200 people short for the critical C4ISR workforce when it closes the doors at Ft. Monmouth in 2011," Smith said. "This is a serious gap in essential personnel and will undoubtedly negatively impact the war fighter and Global War on Terror. It is not too late for the Army to regroup and do the right thing. They made a mistake and it is time to pivot and change course for the good of the world class workforce at Fort Monmouth, the war fighter and the country."
"The base closure commission was created to save money and still support our troops, but it is clear that closing Fort Monmouth does neither," Lautenberg said. "This report proves our point: closing the fort would harm our national security and undermine the war on terror. We now know that closing Fort Monmouth would result in serious setbacks and the loss of some of the best and most highly-skilled experts in the field. That break in our mission would put our troops on the battlefield at risk. We'll keep fighting to keep Fort Monmouth open."
"Instead of providing answers, this essentially raises more questions," Menendez said. "There continues to be a great deal of uncertainty and concern surrounding the decision to close Ft. Monmouth and the effect it could have on global operations against terrorism - this report does nothing to dispel those concerns. Despite our requests, the Department of Defense has yet to provide us with any plans, detailed or not, for conducting this move in a way that doesn't affect the fight against terrorism. We will continue to press for more facts and real answers about this entire process."