Friday, August 19, 2005

BRAC Blues

I am not a big conspiracy theorist, but when it comes to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and money, there may be something fishy. While I'm not necessarily screaming corruption, there are always decisions made that completely disregard the soldier. For example, BRAC really began around 1988 and, according to some, has had a positive affect on those affected. Wow. This is a really big statement. Here is one example where it appears the enlisted got the shaft.

Just south of Washington, DC in northern Virginia, there is an area of Alexandria that dates back to 1652 and is known as "Old Town." There used to be an Army post called Cameron Station that was only a few miles away from the Old Town area. It consisted mainly of long brick buildings and had a huge commissary. One source described it in part as:

The first round of base closings in 1988 addressed Cameron Station, long the home of the Defense Logistics Agency. All 165 acres were declared excess, and the Station's major activities were relocated to Fort Belvoir in 1995. Cameron Station ceased its mission on September 30, 1995. 101 acres of Cameron Station were sold to a private developer in December 1996. The remaining 63 acres were transferred to the City of Alexandria Parks Department.

The really crappy part of it is that, while there are dozens of military installations in the greater metropolitan area, there is very little enlisted housing. Guys that I know in the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) say that E-4s are basically forced to live off post. Trust me that they are happy to do it, but it seriously costs an arm and a leg. The last ONE bedroom apartment that I lived in cost $1K a month (plus utilities). Truth is that according to the August 1st issue of the Army Times, the housing situation is getting worse. In an article titled "The trouble with BAH,"

Although the Basic Allowance for Housing has been hiked more than 50 percent over the past five years to fully cover average rental costs, service members across the country say the allowance still doesn't measure up.

This is not breaking news to enlisted folks. Housing allowances in the DC area are among the highest in the country. So what am I getting at? My point is that, in the case of Cameron Station, there was an excellent opportunity to mitigate some of the struggles of the enlisted folks. Instead, someone got a seriously sweet deal and the developer put up luxury townhomes that are, to be fair, quite nice. Sorry Sergeant, we don't have any on-post housing available.

My biggest concern is thethee new/current BRAC recommendations include shutting down Walter Reed Army Hospital and that the same opportunity will be lost. Granted, the Hospital is in a crappy part of town and I personally wouldn't want to live there, but the fact is that no one is going to look out for the enlisted folks. Housing is just another sacrifice that the enlisted and lower commissioned have to bear. Bummer.