By TARA COPP
Scripps Howard News Service
May 05, 2005
So although the impending closings list is bad news for many communities, for others it will deliver a windfall of new residents.
"We could not do this if it were not married up with base realignment," said Ryan Henry, deputy undersecretary of defense. He was addressing the 2005 base-closing commission's concerns that it would recommend the closing of a base that was to house troops being transferred.
But both the overseas decisions and the upcoming list take the soldiers' return into account, Henry said. To determine where troops would go, planners looked at the strategic locations of U.S. bases and communities' abilities to absorb new residents through available housing and schools.
"We're not putting them (returning military families) in temporary facilities," Henry told members of the commission.
The windfall of thousands of new residents can strain a community's schools, roads and infrastructure, as the troops will bring with them an estimated 100,000 family members. Some communities already know they are getting returning troops and are preparing. For example, Fort Bliss in Texas is receiving $16 million in state funds to improve its roads in time to house 3,800 incoming troops.
About 50,000 of the 70,000 returning troops are Army personnel, Henry said. The numbers of returning Air Force, Navy and Marines servicemen and -women are still being decided, he said.
The transfer is just part of the Pentagon's overall transformation. Henry said that one of the lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is that it's easier for forces to stage a major mobilization from the states. In the 2002 buildup and 2003 deployment, U.S. war planners faced routing issues and delays from the European theater, he said.
"We can move forces quicker to the fight from the U.S.," Henry said.