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Military Strategists Say Communities Should Plan Now For BRAC In 2017

Military defense strategists from around the country are touring San Antonio’s military installations today including those that were shuttered during the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) in 1995. 

The group is meeting here Friday to strategize protecting regional military presence in the face of future budget cuts. Members of the six-state Southwest Defense Alliance are watching those budgets and seeking ways communities in the region can protect their military presence. 

Lt. Gen. John Regni, Air Force, retired, and a member of the strategy team, said the Department of Defense budget was cut even before sequestration, and further dramatic cuts are expected in 2014. 

"They took an almost $480 billion reduction and they spread that over five years," Regni said. "And then they had the first year of the sequestration cuts -- a similar amount of money. What is going to happen in January is most likely the second year of sequestration cuts. So they're doing a lot of Draconian things right now. Sequestration is not a strategic plan. It is a budget whack."

But Regni said BRACs are strategic, and offer communities a chance to plan. Regni said the region needs to start preparations now because another BRAC is expected in 2017. 

"The first step is understanding the military capability that installation, that base and that fort brings, and what is the military necessity argument first, and then how efficient is that operation today," Regni said. "You'll find that Joint Base San Antonio is loaded with efficiencies and best practices where they're being very good stewards of taxpayer dollars."

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce estimates the current economic impact of the military at $27 billion annually, a number that increased because of the strategies San Antonio applied when BRAC Commissioners rolled through town in the late 1990s.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.