Defensive Moves...

Defensive Moves...

Defense Department brings the war home— in economic terms.

Southeastern Fairfax County was a big winner. Alexandria City was a loser. Both will be living with the consequences for decades to come.

The U.S. Department of Defense released its first Base Realignment and Closure Report (BRAC) of the 21st century last Friday. It calls for Fort Belvoir to gain 18,420 positions. It also calls for the City of Alexandria to lose commercially leased space in 12 buildings with the resulting lose of jobs and spending power associated with those jobs.

Of the massive gain at Fort Belvoir, only 3,677 are military personnel. The rest — 14,753 — are civilian employees and contract personnel who will be traveling to and from the post on a daily basis.

That will impact area residents who have nothing to do with military realignment. Not only will it add to commuter congestion, but also to residential and commercial real estate statistics, school populations, public safety needs, medical facilities requirements, and the overall transportation infrastructure of the region.

"This is both an extraordinary opportunity and a major challenge. The transportation infrastructure will present the greatest challenge," said Fairfax County Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland.

"Adding 18,000 people to Fort Belvoir coupled with the proposed new U.S. Army Museum at Fort Belvoir, which is expected to draw at least a million visitors a year, absolutely requires bringing rail service to the Belvoir and the Route 1 corridor," Hyland said.

He was joined in that belief by Fairfax County Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman. "The key element for us is getting more details on where things are going to be located — on the main post or at the Engineer Proving Grounds," said Kauffman, who also currently serves as chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors.

"The big wild card is the transfer of the National Geospatial Agency from Bethesda to Fort Belvoir. That is a large group and will definitely impact the transit situation," he said.

"Once we figure this all out we should count our lucky stars that our end of the county has secured a big plus for years to come," Kauffman said.

"It's a big gain for southeastern Fairfax County but we are really going to need rail service in that area with this increase. Our objective is to do it right by working with the Army and others," said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8).

That was echoed by his local counterpart U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11). "If the Pentagon is going to add all these people to Fort Belvoir they are going to have to work with us on solving the transportation issue. This is absolutely critical to that area," Davis said.

IN ADDITION to elevating the need for rail service in the area, Hyland also saw the announcement as a call to expedite highway projects such as the replacement of Woodlawn Road and the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway.

"This will also impact schools since I'm sure many will choose to relocate to this area. And, the hospital facility relocation could also be a plus for Inova Mount Vernon Hospital and the new healthplex," he said.

"This will bring a great economic boom in terms of retail and the need for increased office space. This is going to be a real blessing even though it is somewhat of a mixed one," Hyland said.

On the flip side was Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille who was looking at commercial real estate space rental space loss in 12 buildings spread throughout the city. "It's very disheartening," Euille said.

"It was a shock that they [DoD] would focus on office space. It could be devastating for us in terms of an economic base and in terms of employment, school enrollment, and just people moving," he said.

"We are not going to take this sitting down. We are going to fight this and do what we can to reverse it or its impact. I plan to create a task force composed of representatives from our Planning and Zoning Department, City Council, and citizens at large to study what we need to do to be ready to respond," Euille said.

"The main question we need to answer is what is it we need to do to back fill on this void in commercial space. I've already scheduled meetings with Realtors that have properties on the hit list. We will develop a plan to help them through this," he said.

Leased facilities in the City of Alexandria on the BRAC list include: Hoffman I & II, Park Center I & IV, Alexandria Tech Center IV, 4700 King St., 1340 Braddock Road' 601 N. Fairfax St., 2320 Mill Road, 621 N. Payne St., 4850 Mark Center Drive, and 1901 and 2001 N. Beauregard St.

THE CLOSURES and realignments account for approximately 20,000 area jobs, according to Moran. "I am opposed to Rumsfeld's targeting of this lease space and will take whatever actions available to prevent these defense agencies from relocating out of the region," he said.

"Moving agencies, currently occupying leased office space in Northern Virginia, to more remote locations will cause a disruption of secured communications lines that will take years to reestablish at substantial cost to the taxpayer," Moran said.

Davis was less emphatic on the DoD leased space proposals. "We'll have to work with the BRAC Commission on the leased space situation," he said.

Approximately 18 months ago the U.S. Army Materiel Command was relocated from its offices on Eisenhower Avenue to Fort Belvoir. As a result of that decision, a new office complex was built on base to house their 1,191 personnel plus those assigned to U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, a subordinate command of AMC.

According to BRAC recommendations, AMC and the Security Assistance Command are scheduled to be relocated to Redstone Arsenal, Huntington, Ala. Their former headquarters building on Eisenhower Avenue remains vacant.

"Keep in mind that a loss of jobs in any locality in the region could have negative repercussions in the city, since freed-up lease space outside the city will be available to lessees who are already in, or might otherwise have chosen, to lease space in the city," said Bernard Caton, legislative director, City of Alexandria.

"Furthermore, the setback requirements that have been proposed for leased DoD space could, in future years, result in the transfer of additional DoD employees out of the city and region, even if their facilities are not on this BRAC list," Caton said.

However, Caton also noted, "While DoD proposes to move out of most of its leased space in the area by 2011, many of the DoD functions are moving to DoD-owned space in the area and new buildings will be required in many cases. Because of this it is likely that many contractors who work with these DoD employees will stay in the space where they are now in Alexandria, Arlington, and elsewhere."

AT FORT BELVOIR Garrison Commander Col. T.W. Williams, said, "These recommendations make it clear that the Department of Defense considers Fort Belvoir as a vital piece of the national defense strategy. We've been given a task by DoD and the Army, and we have a process in place to execute that task. We are fully committed to keeping the local community and our own internal workforce informed as we work our way through this process."

Williams added, "While growth should have a positive impact on the community, we understand that it must be managed carefully so that the quality of life for our soldiers and their families not only stays the same, but continues to improve. At the same time, we will work hand-in-hand with our local leaders and elected officials to maximize benefits and minimize inconveniences to our neighbors."

Williams' evaluation of the BRAC assessment of Fort Belvoir in the grand scheme of the process was buttressed by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. "Overall, the Commonwealth appears to have fared reasonably well. For instance, Fort Belvoir leads the nation with a proposed net gain of almost 12,000 military and civilian positions," Warner said. The 12,000 figure cited by Warner did not take into account the Geospatial relocation which DoD later revised raising the total to 18,420.

However, on the BRAC recommendations pertaining to leased space, Warner said, "... we will work with the commercial real estate industry to demonstrate their ability to ensure security of the facilities so the operational efficiency of remaining close to the Pentagon can be maintained.

"I have instructed members of the Virginia Commission on Military Bases to convene a meeting ... for a preliminary analysis of the potential impact of these BRAC recommendations. It is important that everyone recognize this is but one step in a lengthy process ...."

FORT BELVOIR'S GAINS and losses include the following:

* Gains: Medical care functions from Walter Reed Army Medical Center; Army and DoD organizations presently in leased space in the National Capital Region; Logistics functions from Naval Support Activity, Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Elements of PEO Enterprise Information Systems, Monmouth, N.J.; and National Geospatial Agency units from leased locations in the NCR and Bethesda, Md.

* Losses: U.S. Army Materiel Command Headquarters to Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; U.S. Army Security Assistance Command to Redstone Arsenal; U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division Headquarters to Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va.; Soldiers Magazine to Fort Meade, Md.; Elements of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to Fort Detrick, Md., Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Bethesda, Md.; and Elements of Information Systems, Sensors, Electronic Warfare and Electronics Research to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

"Fort Belvoir now has a 90-day window to draft a plan to answer all the impact questions. We then send that plan to the Department of the Army. They review it and it gets incorporated into the overall Army implementation plan which becomes part of the DoD plan that goes to Congress and the President," said Richard Arndt, public affairs office, Fort Belvoir.

"We have a BRAC implementation team. It is composed of all the directorates on post that will be analyzing all the implications. We will be relooking at our housing plan as to how many of those coming here live in the area and how many are from outside the area. We will also be looking at various other factors such as possible new buildings, traffic impact, and environmental issue," Arndt said.

The BRAC Commission will hold regional meetings to solicit public input prior to making its recommendations to the president by Sept. 8. The president then forwards the recommendations to Congress, which has 45 legislative days to act, according to the Fort Belvoir public affairs office.

"Under the BRAC statute, actions to close or realign an installation must be initiated within two years of Congressional approval, with completion within six years. One of those regional public input meetings may be held in this area, but it has not yet been scheduled," Arndt said.