Pace quickens on US base closures

A NEW LIST of US military installations targeted for closure was revealed on March 12, comprising 31 major sites and 40 other installations. Operations at another 94 sites could be realigned or curtailed. Plans to close an additional 29 overseas bases were also announced.

These reductions will save about $3.1 billion from the year 2000. However, Defence Secretary Les Aspin indicated that this still falls short of planned reductions in defence budgets and a further round of more drastic cuts can be expected. The cuts would also see the loss of 57,000 civilian and 24,000 military jobs. Overseas closures are almost entirely in Europe and include shutting down USAF operations at all eight sites at Iraklion, Greece and at four radio relay sites in Holland. Various Army and Navy facilities are also to be closed.

Naval air base closures in the USA would include NAS Alameda, California, a major base for west coast Navy and Marine Corps reserve squadrons, currently comprising HM-15 (MH-53), HM-19 (RH- 53D), HMH-772 Det C (RH-53D), HS-85 (SH-3H), MALS-42 (TA-4J), VA-304 (A-6E/KA-6D), VMA-133 (A-4M) and VR-55 (C-9B), together with a Naval Air Depot undertaking Intruder and Orion major overhauls. Also scheduled for closure is MCAS El Toro, California, the Marines’ major Hornet base which houses HMM- 764 (CH-46E); MARTD (UC-12D, UH-1N); VMFA-134, VMFA-314 and VMFA-323 (all F/A-18As); VMFAT-101 (F/A- 18A/B/C/D); VMFA(AW)-121, VMFA(AW)-225 and VMFA(AW)-242 (all F/A-18D) and VMGR-352 (KC-130F/R). El Toro’s aircraft would transfer to NAS Miramar, California, its aircraft mostly being moved to NAS Leemore, California.

Other closures include NAS Barber’s Point, Hawaii (its aircraft moving to MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii); NAS Cecil Field, Florida (aircraft to be dispersed between MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina and MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina); NAS Dallas, Texas; NAF Detroit, Michigan; NAS Glenview, Illinois; NAS Memphis, Tennessee and NAS Meridian, Missouri (the training functions of these two bases being split between NAS Kingsville, Texas and NAS Pensacola, Florida); NAF Midway Island, Pacific Ocean; NAS Mobile, Alabama; NAD Norfolk, Virginia; NATD Pensacola, Florida and NAS South Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Although reassurances were given that Homestead AFB, Florida, would be rebuilt after the devastation of Hurricone Andrew last August, this decision has been reversed and the base is now listed for closure. In addition, K I Sawyer AFB, Michigan, home of the 410th Wing with B-52Hs (644th BS) and KC-135As (46th & 307th ARSs), is slated for closure, together with O’Hare AFRes Base, Chicago, Illinois.

Major ‘realignment’ has been recommended for Griffiss, New York; March, California and McGuire, New Jersey, which will be converted to reserve bases. Their other roles will be taken over by Travis AFB and Plattsburgh AFB, which will be expanded accordingly.

Several changes to earlier recommendations by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BARC) have also been made. MacDill AFB has been reprieved and following the decision to close Homestead, will retain the 482nd FW (AFRes) F-16As which moved from there when the hurricane hit and is now due to re-equip with KC-135Rs. On March 22 it was also announced that McClellan AFB, California was back on the list of 31 bases recommended for closure together with NAS Agana, Guam.

Proposed US Army closures comprise Fort McClellan, Alabama and Vint Hills Farms Station, Virginia while re-alignments include Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and the Army Depots at Letterkenny, Pennsylvania and Toole, Utah.

Bomber and tanker crew training on the B-52 and KC-135, currently the responsibility of the 93rd Wing at Castle AFB, was to be transferred to the 92nd Wing at Fairchild AFB. Instead it will now be split with B-52 training carried out by the 2nd Wing at Barksdale and KC-135 training by the 340th Wing at Altus.

All these changes have been submitted to the BARC for approval. They will be passed to the President by July 1 and submitted to Congress on September 1, after which the list must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.

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