May 20th, 2005 - The U.S. Department of Defense recently recommended closing nearly 180 military installations and offices as part of a process called BRAC, which stands for Base Realignment and Closure. BRAC is designed to save the Defense Department $49 billion over the next 20 years by reorganizing our nation's military base structure to make sure it is as efficient and effective as possible.
Unfortunately, the military recommendations included cutting over 1,500 jobs from the Rock Island Arsenal, which is located on the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area.
The Rock Island Arsenal is part of our nation's military industrial base and is critical to our national security. The importance of the Rock Island Arsenal was highlighted last year when it was able to immediately produce armor kits needed to protect Humvees in Iraq.
The Pentagon's report recognized the value of the Arsenal's industrial facilities by protecting those jobs, but chose to relocate a number of white collar workers currently located at Rock Island to other Army facilities.
The Pentagon's recommendations are just the first step in the BRAC process. Next, an independent BRAC Commission will review all of the Department of Defense's proposals and has the authority to change the Department's recommendations. The commission will hold regional meetings to solicit public input.
This means that the Quad Cities will have the opportunity to question the Defense Department's analysis. The Rock Island Arsenal has a lot of useful office space available, which, when combined with the low cost of living and the strong Midwestern work ethic, make it a common sense choice for the military to make full use of.
In fact, questions are already being raised about some of the proposals to remove jobs from the Arsenal that don't seem to make economic sense. I have no doubt that the Quad Cities will work throughout the review process to show the value of the Arsenal and the work done at this outstanding facility.
Following the review, the Commission will make recommendations to the President no later than Sept. 8, 2005. The President must either approve or disapprove the Commission's recommendations by Sept. 23, 2005. If he approves the Commission's report, Congress has 45 days to pass a resolution blocking the recommendations from taking effect.
There is some silver lining for Iowa in the BRAC process though. The Headquarters of 1st U.S. Army is being moved to the Rock Island Arsenal, which will bring with it nearly 400 jobs that will partially offset the other losses there.
In addition, the Pentagon recommended that Iowa get new facilities for the Guard and Reserve troops in our state. The Sioux City and Des Moines Air Guard units also came through the first phase in as good or better shape than before.
Throughout my career in Congress I have helped uncover and highlight many cases of waste and fraud in Pentagon spending and I know much more can be done to ensure that the billions of tax dollars spent on national defense are used wisely. It's critically important that this opportunity to make our military base structure more efficient does just that.
I look forward to working with the folks in the Quad Cities and the BRAC Commission to make sure that the Department of Defense's recommendations are fully scrutinized and the final BRAC decision makes that most effective use of the facilities at Rock Island and elsewhere.