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Will Iraq delay BRAC?
Redstone commander, Cramer concerned about increased war commitments

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com· 340-2435

Increased expenditures in Iraq could delay the expansion of Redstone Arsenal, the garrison commander fears.

U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, shares the concern, but said it is too early to predict.

Col. John Olshefski, garrison commander at Redstone, said Thursday he is concerned that increased commitments in Iraq will delay the transfer of personnel to the Huntsville army base, scheduled for finalization by Sept. 15, 2011.

“I would say I’m uncomfortable with that (2011 deadline),” he said. “I’m not making predictions.”

Friday, Olshefski said there has been no change in the 2011 deadline and Redstone plans to meet it.

Cramer said it is premature to conclude the U.S. Department of Defense will miss the statutory deadline, but he agrees it is possible.

“There could be a slide,” Cramer said. “The cost of the new surge (in troops to Iraq), the way DOD has to come back to us to ask for supplemental funding, these are big expenditures that will domino back into all budgets.”

Cramer is a member of the House Appropriations Committee on Defense, which determines funding for the Pentagon, and is also on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

He said significant delays would cause problems not just for the area economy, but for military preparedness.

He sees BRAC as an important step in better preparing the military for Iraq-type conflicts, especially in terms of improving health care for injured soldiers.

Consequently, Iraq-related budget constraints would be a poor justification for BRAC delays.

“BRAC accommodates this war on terror,” Cramer said. “It helps our soldiers to be trained, to be treated in more modern hospitals, to have better weapons. I think we all know here (in Washington) that it’s important for that schedule not to slide.”

Possible delay

The possibility of delay is a real one, though.

“Even (Wednesday and Thursday) we had hearings in the defense subcommittee (of the House Committee on Appropriations) on issues relating to the war and DOD spending cycles, looking at the out-years,” Cramer said.

At one of those hearings, Cramer said, someone asked a Defense Department official whether some aspect of the BRAC 2011 deadline could be met despite increasing Iraq expenditures.

“He answered, ‘The jury’s still out on that. We don’t know yet,’ ” Cramer said.

In order to accommodate the massive influx of personnel, Redstone is well into the process of constructing $408.4 million in operational and residential facilities. Other efforts are under way by local governments to expand infrastructure and housing.

The cost of moving personnel in and out of Redstone will total $256 million, Olshefski said.

Increase personnel

As planned, BRAC will increase Redstone’s civilian and military personnel by more than 4,000. Officials expect that, including family members and defense contractor employees, the population influx to the area will be as high as 12,000.

Most of the Redstone employees are scheduled to arrive in 2010 and 2011.

‘Work diligently’

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, in an e-mailed response, said he will “work diligently to ensure that our armed forces receive funding for programs that are critical to our national defense, including Base Realignment and Closure implementation funding.

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