It isn't time to panic, but it is time to get prepared.
That's the message from retired U.S. Army Col. Thom Tuckey, the Metro Augusta and Columbia County Chamber of Commerce military affairs consultant. With another round of military base closures and realignments coming up in 2005, the community needs to come together to help protect Fort Gordon's future.
"But this isn't a 'save Fort Gordon' campaign," said Tuckey, who Monday morning gave a presentation to the Columbia County Chamber's "Not Just Coffee" session at the Evans Government Complex Auditorium. "This is a 'utilize economic development' campaign."
The economic impact of Fort Gordon on the community is enormous, Tuckey said; the base is the area's largest employer with 17,000 workers, 10,000 of them living off post. Their combined income is $1.2 billion per year.
Of those workers, in Columbia County, 14 percent of people with jobs are employed as a result of Fort Gordon's presence in the community. That figure is 28 percent for Richmond County. "This doesn't mean they have jobs at Fort Gordon; it means they have jobs because of Fort Gordon," said Tuckey.
With more than two dozen presentations under his belt, and seven other scheduled just this week, Tuckey and the Chamber are working to rally the community to help position Fort Gordon to survive the base-closure process.
Tuckey pointed out that in the last base realignment and closure, or BRAC, round in 1995, 95 military bases closed. Yet in neither that BRAC nor in four previous sessions did Georgia lose one of its 11 bases. "Why did Georgia not take any hits?" Tuckey asked. "Sam Nunn. That's the most common answer. So where are the Sam Nunns of today?"
Now that the powerful Georgia senator has retired, other states are better positioned to protect their bases. Those elected officials will choose the members of the BRAC commission, and as a result their states likely are to be better protected from BRAC losses.
"So how are they going to decide which installations close?" Tuckey asked. "First and foremost is the military mission. ... If you've got a base that makes cannonballs, we don't need cannonballs any more."
The good news for Fort Gordon is that its missions - including the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, which actually moved to Fort Gordon because of the 1995 BRAC - help position Fort Gordon for survival, Tuckey said.
But the community - especially private business - must also help by demonstrating support for Fort Gordon and its missions, Tuckey said. That includes using the services at the Fort available to civilians, such as the bowling lanes, golf course and riding stables.
"We need more folks to not be afraid of going in the gate at Fort Gordon," Tuckey said.
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