Guv's promise on Fort Carson easy to keep

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Guv's promise on Fort Carson easy to keep

WASHINGTON — Some campaign promises are easier to keep than others.
Like the assurance that Gov. Bill Richardson recently gave residents of southeastern Colorado who fear the Fort Carson Army base near Colorado Springs could be closed or reduced by a future Base Realignment and Closure commission.
"If I'm elected president, I'll take care of that BRAC problem," the Pueblo Chieftain quoted Richardson as saying in a story last week.
But there may not be a BRAC problem to take care of. Congress has not authorized another round of base-closing since the tumultuous 2005 BRAC, which recommended 195 major and 748 minor actions - nearly twice as many as in the four previous BRAC rounds combined.
The 2005 round stirred a lot of controversy. Many of the Pentagon proposals were to realign or consolidate missions, which produced few of the savings of the four earlier rounds when commissioners were not shy about making changes.
For example, then-Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld recommended closing Cannon Air Force Base. But after lobbying by Richardson and the New Mexico congressional delegation, the BRAC commissioners decided to eliminate Cannon's three F-16 squadrons but replace them with the 16th Special Operations Wing.
Pahl Shipley, the Richardson campaign's communications director, said, "It is clear that the Defense Department process for deciding base closures was flawed - just look at the number of DOD closure decisions that were overturned by the BRAC committee.
"The governor has always believed in streamlining government and eliminating waste and duplication, however it must be done through careful research, thoughtful and forward-thinking evaluation, and with the input of the affected communities."
There will be little pressure on the next president to propose another BRAC.
The law implementing the 2005 BRAC gave the Defense Department until September 2011 to finish the task.
Those commissioners said there should not be another BRAC until 2013, and then eight years between rounds.
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told The Tribune, "I'm not aware of any plans for a new BRAC. We've got to get the last one settled in."
Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Sen. Pete Domenici, an Albuquerque Republican, said there have been five BRACs in the last 17 years, so there will probably be others down the road.
"However, we are not hearing any rumblings that there will be any new BRAC in the near future," he said.
Domenici announced this week that the Senate Appropriations military construction subcommittee has allocated about $10 million in the coming year's spending bill for transition work at Cannon. Altogether, the subcommittee approved $137 million for New Mexico bases, including $11.4 million for a pararescue school at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Richardson's BRAC comment was made after a campaign stop in Pueblo, Colo. Chieftain reporter Peter Roper said Richardson called him from a Democratic reception. Richardson told Roper he wanted to support ranchers and homeowners who were opposing any effort by the Army to use eminent domain to take land in Pi¤on Canyon to expand the maneuvering and training range for Fort Carson, which is scheduled to add about 10,000 soldiers because of BRAC realignments.
Roper said he told Richardson that Army officials had said that a failure to expand the training range could hurt Fort Carson in the next BRAC round.
Army spokesman David Foster said he was unaware of any effort to link the Pi¤on Canyon issue to BRAC.