US panel approves Army base closings

A U.S. review commission approved on Wednesday the Pentagon's proposed closure of Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and other Army facilities as it began final deliberations over the fate of hundreds of domestic military installations and thousands of jobs.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) voted 7-1 with one abstention to close Fort Monmouth in Edison County, a move that will result in a net loss of 5,272 military and civilian jobs at the facility.

The commission also voted to close Fort Monroe in Virginia, with a loss of 3,564 jobs and Forts McPherson and Gillem in Georgia, with a loss of 5,222 jobs. It also approved cutbacks at the Red River Army Depot, a supply and maintenance hub, affecting about 2,500 people.

The Fort Monmouth closure will shift the U.S. Army's communications electronics command to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, reports Reuters.

According to Newsday, at that hearing, BRAC Chairman Anthony Principi said the plan was "certainly what the secretary of defense is trying to accomplish in this transformation to build more jointness into our war fighting capability, readiness and training, research and development."

Holt said the commissioners have shown a "pretty independent frame of mind."

"They almost surely will be willing to remove bases from the list," he added.

But two military analysts weren't quite as optimistic.

"My best guess is that the commission will go along with the original recommendation and close Fort Monmouth," said Loren Thompson of The Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think tank.

Thompson said he did not believe there's a synergy with Fort Monmouth and the "mega base" facilities. He added that Aberdeen is closer to Washington, D.C., and the "technological center of gravity," referring to the many technology companies in and around the nation's capital.

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