After all the hand-wringing and speculation, the final Base Realignment and Closure announcement Friday was anticlimactic. Fort Gordon was spared the ax, and no new missions are coming.
Nauseatingly predictable, politicians nationwide either crowed about the list if their district got good news, or pledged to fight the miscarriage of justice that surely must be behind any closure in their state.
Less predictable was who would be on the list. A couple of months ago, a local Air Force retiree passed along a purported BRAC list from Armed Forces News. The retiree said all the waiting on BRAC was a farce, because the AFN list proved the deal had already been made.
After the BRAC list was released Friday (we first got the news via e-mail from U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood's office), I hunted up that list from AFN to compare it to the BRAC list.
So was it a long-ago done deal? Not even close:
The AFN list has just 54 bases "being considered"; 358 facilities are on the actual BRAC list, not counting overseas bases. So the AFN list includes just 15 percent of the actual targeted bases as "being considered," about the same accuracy as a wild guess. Of those on the AFN list, 14 did not make the BRAC list at all -- which means the AFN's 15 percent is only 74 percent accurate.
Of the bases listed by AFN that also appear on BRAC, 12 are realigning (30 percent of the AFN total), 18 are gaining (45 percent) and 10 are closing (25 percent); on the BRAC list, 38 percent are realigning, 8 percent are gaining and 54 percent are closing. The AFN list is skewed toward good news -- i.e., while a base that appears on the actual BRAC list is more likely to be closing, a base listed on AFN is more likely to be gaining or realigning.
Further, if you include the incorrect bases listed on AFN, and compute the percentages based on the total AFN list, realigned bases make up 22 percent of the total, gains make 33 percent and closures 19 percent -- while the category "wrong guess" comes in at 26 percent.
In other words, AFN was as likely to guess wrong as right, which is equivalent odds to flipping a coin. Still, the good news is that Fort Gordon was spared from the real or wild-guess list, and the speculation is finally over.
Now we can start the speculation on what happens next with the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon. They've received accolades far and wide for their defense of the fort, but with their mission successfully completed, will they continue to operate and work for expansion? Or declare victory and disarm?
It's an important question. Columbia County taxpayers are tentatively slated to kick in $50,000 for the alliance's operation next year. Are they, and the other contributors, funding a rescue mission, or a booster club?
Saturday, May 21, 2005 is Columbia County's commencement, and for the first time one of my own children will be walking across the stage.
My daughter, Essa, is graduating with honors from Lakeside High School. I've promised not to take an air horn to the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, and won't let out any redneck whoops.
No promises on the tears, though. Wasn't it just the day before yesterday that I held the video camera as my wife walked Essa up the steps to kindergarten at Blue Ridge Elementary? Though the road has been long and sometimes bumpy since then, now that we've finally reached the end it feels like we just started.
I'm awfully proud of my biggest little girl, as are several hundred other parents who'll likewise see their pride and joy cross the stage Saturday. Congratulations to us all.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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