May 14, 2007 Military Update
By Tom Philpott
Defense officials are refereeing a control-and-culture clash between the Air Force and its sister services over a requirement to create 12 "joint bases" out of 25.
The 25 bases, it seems, already are run by their favorite service.
The mandate for joint bases is part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure plan, which became law in November 2005. The Air Force is to manage six joint base sites, the Navy four and the Army two.
But the Air Force, which for decades has spent more proportionally on quality-of-life programs and facilities, is wringing its hands and, critics contend, dragging its feet over the prospect of giving the Navy control of Hickam Air Force Base in Hawai'i, Bolling Air Force Base near Washington D.C., and Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. It also expected to give the Army control of McChord Air Force Base in Washington state.
Air Force officials argue that their bases alone are "fighting platforms" for their aircraft and thus must be maintained in top form as the Navy strives to maintain its ships and the Army and Marine Corps sustain deployed ground forces.
The Army, Navy and Marine Corps, on the other hand, are known to defer base maintenance when money is short. The Air Force fears that might occur under joint basing arrangements, reducing the quality of life and harming readiness.
Under adjustments mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission, the Navy is to command jointly Naval Station Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base; Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base; Naval Annex Anacostia in Washington, D.C., and Bolling Air Force Base; and Naval Station Norfolk, Va., and Fort Story. The Army is to manage jointly Fort Lewis, Wash., and McChord Air Force Base, and to do the same in Virginia with Fort Myer and nearby Henderson Hall for the Marine Corps.
The Air Force is to manage jointly Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina and Naval Weapons Station Charleston; McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey with Fort Dix and the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst; Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland with embedded Naval Air Facility Washington; Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson in Alaska; Lackland and Randolph air force bases in San Antonio, along with Fort Sam Houston; and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia with Fort Eustis.
Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., a joint-basing advocate, is losing patience with the Air Force and warns that Congress might have to intervene. Saxton pressed William C. Anderson, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, to explain his service's resistance to joint basing during a recent hearing of the House armed services subcommittee on readiness.
The Air Force supports joint basing and knows it can produce efficiencies, Anderson said. But it wants joint basing tested first at two or three sites.