Fate of fort could be decided by Aug. 27

BRAC commission will send recommendations to Bush by Sept. 8

BY SUE M. MORGAN Staff Writer

Staff Writer

By the end of this month, Fort Monmouth employees, contractors and supporters might finally be able to exhale after holding their collective breath as the local military base’s future hangs in the balance.

The federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission is expected to decide sometime between Wednesday and Aug. 27 whether or not to shutter Fort Monmouth along with 32 other U.S. military installations that have been targeted for mothballing by the Pentagon, according to C. James Schaefer IV, director of communications for the BRAC commissioners.

Deliberations and the vote on the fate of all of the bases that could be closed or restructured by the Pentagon’s BRAC process are due to begin on Wednesday, Schaefer said.

The subsequent vote by the nine BRAC commissioners in Washington, D.C., will be nationally televised on C-SPAN 2 and the results made public at that time, he noted.

Although Schaefer indicated that it is “hard to tell” when the BRAC commission would actually vote on Fort Monmouth or any other installation, he stressed that those holding a stake in a particular base’s future would know the results shortly after the decision is made.

Results of the BRAC commissioners’ voting on each base will then be delivered in the form of a book to President George W. Bush by Sept. 8, Schaefer said.

“This vote is good. You’ll know during those deliberations, before the book is delivered up to Congress and first and foremost the president,” Schaefer said.

The deliberations call for the BRAC commissioners to review data collected on each one of the 33 bases targeted for closure, and hundreds more for restructuring, and then to vote on each one individually, he added.

Upon receiving the list from the BRAC commissioners with their final votes, Bush has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject those recommendations in their entirety.

Should Bush disapprove of the BRAC commissioners’ recommendations, the commission must revise and submit a new list to the president by Oct. 20.

Bush must then approve any revised recommendations by Nov. 7 and forward the list to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments within 45 days after that date.

Unless Congress approves a joint resolution to reject the recommendations within 45 days after receiving the list, the BRAC commission’s recommendations become binding.

To remove Fort Monmouth or any installation from the Pentagon’s initial list, five of the nine BRAC commissioners must vote in favor of such action, according to U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).

Since May 13, when the Pentagon first announced that it had targeted the more than 80-year-old Fort Monmouth for closing under its BRAC process, local, state and federal lawmakers from throughout New Jersey have been lobbying to

reverse the Defense Department’s


Under the Pentagon’s proposal, the bulk of Fort Monmouth’s military and civilian work force, many employed by the U.S. Army’s Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM), would be asked to relocate to the Aberdeen (Md.) Proving Ground over the next two to six years.

Other civilian commands would be transferred to military installations elsewhere in Maryland as well as Virginia, Ohio, and West Point, N.Y.

However, Holt and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) have been leading the charge to preserve the base, which employs about 5,085 civilians and 467 military personnel. More than 2,500 military contractors from Monmouth County and throughout the state also work on the post.

Fort Monmouth also houses more than 2,500 contractors, according to statistics provided by the Save Our Fort Committee, a local advocacy group of base supporters, co-chaired by Holt and Pallone.

Meanwhile, retired Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on New Jersey Military Bases and president of Monmouth University, West Long Branch, appeared before the BRAC commission on July 8 in Towson, Md., with a recommendation to merge Fort Monmouth into a “megabase” the Pentagon has planned for Burlington and Ocean counties.

On behalf of the New Jersey legislators, Gaffney made the case for joining Fort Monmouth’s research and development functions with those now in place at Fort Dix, McGuire Air Force Base, and Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Because those three contiguous bases are located less than 25 miles from Fort Monmouth, the merger would be more cost-effective than relocating CECOM elsewhere, Gaffney testified.

Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo also testified at the hearing, describing how a possible fort closing could devastate the economies of his community and four other municipalities — Tinton Falls, Shrewsbury, Oceanport and Little Silver — all of which either host or border the 1,100-acre base.