Legislative Committee in San Antonio Today Will Prepare for Base Closures

The Texas House Interim Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee holds a special session at St. Philips College in San Antonio today to discuss the possibilities of another round of military base closings, and how Texas and San Antonio can prepare, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"Some of these generals have suggested there should be another round of base closings," State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) told 1200 WOAI news.  "There are a couple of Republican bills coming that call for another BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission), so I feel it is coming."

There have been four rounds of BRAC since the Defense Base Closing and Realignment Act was passed in Congress in 1990.  The idea was to cut duplication and cut down on the size of the footprint of the domestic U.S. military following the end of the Vietnam War and the Cold War.  The responsibility was placed into the hands of an independent commission, because of the inherent political dangers of a member of Congress having a base closed in his or her district.

San Antonio has had a mixed result from the four BRAC rounds.  Perhaps the most devastating closure was Kelly Air Force Base in 1993 and Brooks Air Force Base in 1995,

But both of those facilities have been reborn into parks which employ more people today than they employed as military installations.  Brooks, the mixed use development, now includes stores, industrial facilities, hospitals, hotels, and residential complexes.  Port San Antonio, on the ground of the old Kelly Field, is a thriving industiral center which is home to cyber security and aerospace operations.

In 2005, the BRAC in fact voted to expand Brooke Army Medical Center into today's sprawling San Antonio Military Medical Center, and consolidating all of the Pentagon's medical training programs.  BAMC is now the largest military hospital in the U.S. Department of Defense.

But Gutierrez says it is still critical that the city and the state be prepared for additional rounds of base closures.

"It is simple things like making sure that we pass legislation that doesn't hurt our bases from an infrastructure development perspective."

He cites the measure approved in the 2017 Legislature to give cities zoning control within 5 miles of an active duty military facility, so they can make sure that no entities encroach on the base that would damage the military's mission.  That bill was most important to Camp Bullis, which is a unit of Ft. Sam Houston, because it is in unincorporated Bexar County and is located in a very fast growing area.

The City of San Antonio has also imposed light restrictions around military facilities, and moved to protect endangered species which might otherwise require large chunks of the base property under the Endangered Species Act.

The City and Bexar County have also encouraged other hospital groups not to open Level One Trauma Centers in the city, because BAMC requires a steady stream of trauma patients to train military medical personnel.

With much of the U.S. military posture moving toward cyber security and fighting unconventional wars, like the War on Terrorism, many have questioned why the traditional military still has such a large domestic footprint.  

Some military analysts say as much as 50% of the nation's current military facilities are redundant and could be closed without damaging the country's military posture.

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