2005 CPEO Installation Reuse Forum Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 11 May 2005 06:54:46 -0000
Reply: cpeo-irf
Subject: [CPEO-IRF] Challenges for receiving bases and communities
While most eyes are focused on the Pentagon's soon to be released list of base closures, the re-alignments are equally important. Military missions, equipment, and troops will be moved from closing installations, not only in the U.S., but from bases abroad, to those that remain open.

Many of those facilities are currently ill-equipped to receive large numbers of personnel and their families. Setting aside for the moment the question of industrial and training facilities - the military workplace - receiving facilities will need to quickly expand family housing as well as transportation capacity. This is particularly true at major Army forts.

Though the likely receiving bases generally had larger garrisons in the past, the profile of the U.S. soldier, seaman, and airman has changed. They are older, often female. They have families. And they have cars. This is a far cry from the 18-year olds who lived in barracks in the past. So even if existing housing is in good condition - a rarity - it will still be insufficient.

If the receiving bases do their jobs properly, the housing and transportation demand will be quickly identified. If not, Environmental Impact Statements should flag those needs - but those usually take a while to prepare.

Rather than fund housing construction from their own budgets, the armed services will seek partnerships with the private sector. Private homebuilders will build and own most of the housing, leasing the underlying base property. They will rent the units to military personnel, who will pay with their housing allowances.

It's essential to thoroughly assess the environmental condition of these privatized housing sites before any deals are struck. Existing housing projects on military bases have been encumbered by both explosive and toxic contamination. At both Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and Beale Air Force Base, new privatized housing areas have been designated on World War II munitions impact areas. In fact, at both bases the housing sites are directly across the fenceline from Army Corps munitions response projects, addressing the formerly used defense sites that were part of the Camp Elliot and Camp Beale. At Moffett Military Housing, also in California, plans to develop housing have been scaled back and delayed by the presence of an underlying plume of volatile organic compounds.

Given the history of pollution at most major bases, similar problems are likely to emerge at forts and other bases receiving realigned units.

Road construction will be another major requirement, both on and off base. While the military is likely to foot the bill on its own property, host communities are likely to be stuck with unexpected construction expenses and perhaps difficult environmental trade-offs. As with any other form of economic expansion, military re-alignment comes with costs, not just benefits.

Demand for other services, such as schools for military dependents, may experience rapid, unexpected growth, as well. But it's unlikely anyone has assessed those needs, either.

Thus, just like communities losing bases and the closing bases themselves, receiving bases and their host communities have a great deal of environmental review and planning on the horizon.

Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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