Fort Belvoir could end up a net winner in the next round of potential military base closings scheduled to get underway in 2005.
That was the assessment of Gov. Mark Warner (D) during a press conference last Wednesday afternoon at the South County Government Center, 8350 Richmond Highway, following his visit to Fort Belvoir where he and his state Base Realignment and Closure Committee (BRAC) were briefed on various changes and additions that have taken place since 9/11.
"We have more concentration of military bases per population then any other state in nation. And, we want to make the best case possible for our bases as we go into the BRAC process in 2005," Warner said.
THE BRAC COMMISSION was established by Congress to assess the viability of military bases worldwide based on their strategic importance, mission and budgetary impact. It makes its recommendations to Congress pertaining to continuations and closures on a five year cycle. This will be the first since 9/11.
"Fort Belvoir is one of the obvious critical bases. Based on what we saw during our briefing at the base today, Fort Belvoir continues to play a vital role in the support of our armed forces around the world," Warner said.
Joining Warner at the press conference were state Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-36), state Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-43), and Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman. Both Puller and Sickles accompanied Warner to Belvoir for the briefing of his BRAC Committee.
"Fort Belvoir is an integral part of this community. As they continue to grow it is a benefit to the entire area," Sickles said.
"We had a very informative session at Fort Belvoir. Not only about the BRAC situation but also on other topics of interest to the local community such as the Woodlawn Road closing and its replacement," Puller said.
Emphasizing that Fort Belvoir, in addition to its strategic importance to national defense, is also the largest employer in Fairfax County, Kauffman said, "I'm thrilled to see the governor giving this facility his personal attention."
Warner also announced, "We got good news about the process of cleaning up the land at the old Engineering Proving Grounds so that it can be transferred to the county to complete the Fairfax County Parkway. That process and transfer should be completed by April 2005."
In predicting that Belvoir could be a net winner in the next BRAC process, Warner said, "There are already plans in the works to bring other operations to Belvoir in the near future." Within the past year the U.S. Army Materiel Command moved onto the base from its previous Alexandria headquarters on Eisenhower Avenue.
ON OTHER MATTERS, Warner said, "We've just had the biggest economic development in years here in Virginia with the announcement of IBM coming to Northern Virginia.
"This is an international organization that could have gone anywhere. They are knowledge based. They decided to come here because we have gotten our financial house in order."
When it came to the issue of baseball and the recent decision by Major League Baseball to move the Montreal Expos to the District of Columbia, Warner said, "I was one of the original investors in the effort to bring major league baseball to Northern Virginia before I became governor. But, we had to make it financially viable.
"D.C.'s offer was $100 million better for major league baseball. But, I believe that the baseball owners have to pay their fair share. And, there was a real concern by the General Assembly for putting up the state's moral obligation to fund baseball. Plus, I don't think the tax payers of Virginia should help the baseball owners make more money."