Senator Mark Pryor today said the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) announcement by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is a mixed bag for Arkansas military installations, and vowed to continue promoting the necessary role they each play in our nation's overall defense strategy as the BRAC process moves forward.
Pryor said he was very excited the Department of Defense (DOD) has recognized the critical role the Little Rock Air Force Base plays in our overall national defense strategy and has opted to bolster that role, but he expressed disappointment that the DOD did not see the value and potential of some of Arkansas' other military installations, especially as it pertains to Fort Smith and the Red River and Lone Star Army Depots.
Pryor stressed that Rumsfeld's recommendations are only one step in the BRAC process. The BRAC Commission has until October to revise the list and the President will not certify it until November. He pledged to play an active role in protecting Arkansas' military installations throughout the BRAC process.
"I will continue to work with community leaders and fellow delegation members to promote and protect our military bases - in particular I will be submitting testimony to the BRAC Commission in the upcoming weeks and I have set up a delegation meeting with BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony Principi this week."
Little Rock Air Force Base
Pryor said the Little Rock Air Force Base is a big winner in the BRAC process gaining 3,898 personnel and 74 C-130 aircraft. There are currently an estimated 7,156 civilian and military personnel at the base. Pryor said he was proud of the base's strong showing, and pleased even more personnel will benefit from the base's new C-130J training facility, intelligence communications equipment, and child development center that he helped secure through the appropriations process.
Pryor added that Rumsfeld's decision to honor pending C-130 J contracts adds to the fortunes of the LRAFB. For several months, Pryor worked with Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) to convince the Pentagon of the importance of the C-130 J.
"Today's recommendation means that the LRAFB will remain this country's premier C-130 training facility, and Central Arkansas will receive a tremendous economic boost," Pryor said. "This victory is a testament to the dedication and skill of the individuals at the base and to the community as a whole." Pine Bluff Arsenal
Pryor said he is also pleased with the DOD's recommendation to sustain production at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, and he commended Arsenal officials for receiving a designation as a multi-functional Munitions Center of Excellence. The Arsenal already stores 12 percent of the nation's chemical weapons stockpile and maintains an important mission in destroying dangerous chemical weapons no longer used by the military.
Pryor said the delegation has made the Arsenal stronger over the past two years with a $1.87 million appropriation to modernize its processing equipment and $24.3 million for its white phosphorous facility - the only one of its kind in the nation.
Pryor noted that the Stone United States Army Reserve Center in Pine Bluff will be moved to the Arsenal, which will require a federal investment of $8.9 million to build a new Armed Forces Reserve Center.
"The Pine Bluff Arsenal remains a strong installation that plays a critical role in our overall national defense strategy. The entire Pine Bluff community knows this, but we can all sleep a little easier knowing that the Pentagon agrees with us," Pryor said.
Fort Smith Air Guard
Pryor said he was disappointed with Secretary Rumsfeld's decision to realign the Fort Smith Air Guard, which involves relocating seven F-16s, retiring eight more and moving the fire fighter positions to Tulsa, OK and the Home Station Training Site to Savannah, GA. Pryor expressed his strong desire to prevent the realignment by working with the delegation to keep the F-16s and helping the 188th find a new, long-term mission, if necessary. Pryor said the $6 million Aerospace and Maintenance Complex he secured last year provides a valuable asset that he hopes will not go unnoticed by the BRAC committee.
"I am disappointed and frankly a bit puzzled that the Secretary would make a decision to realign the 188th, especially at this time. These aircrafts and their pilots right now are proving their combat worthiness by being deployed to Afghanistan," Pryor said. "I will continue to work with the delegation to make sure the BRAC Commission understands the value and potential of Fort Smith."
Lone Star Army Depot & Red River Army Depot
Pryor said he is disappointed the BRAC recommendation calls for the closure of the Lone Star Army Depot. It would move the Depot's storage and demilitarization functions to McAlester, IL; the mines and detonators, relays, and delays functions to Iowa, IA; the demolition charges functions to Crane Army Ammunition, IN; artillery and mortar functions to Milan, TN. He said 229 employees would lose their jobs.
Pryor said Rumsfeld's plan would to close the Red River Army Depot would have a significant adverse economic impact, costing the community 4,176 jobs.
Red River provides depot maintenance for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Multiple Launch Rocket System, and Combat Tactical Wheeled Vehicles. Its electronics repair facility supports the Bradley, Multiple Launch Rocket System, and a variety of missile support and aircraft armament subsystems. The depot is also the worldwide center for Patriot and Hawk missile re-certification. It also has an ammunition storage mission, intern training center, civilian training, and rubber production facilities
"I am disappointed that Secretary Rumsfeld has not seen the obvious value and potential of the Red River and Lone Star Army Depot. They both provide support and maintenance for some of our most critical weapons systems and vehicles including the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Multiple Launch Rocket System, both of which have been critical to our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq," Pryor said.
Camp Pike, North Little Rock
Pryor said he will also fight the recommendation to close Camp Pike, which serves as the headquarters for an Army Reserve regional command. He said 177 positions could be lost from this closing.