A general inspection

commander sizes up Letterkenny Depot

March 15, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command on Monday made his first tour of Letterkenny Army Depot, but if Gen. Benjamin Griffin knows what the future holds for the depot and its 2,400 federal and contract workers, he was not tipping his hand.

"Within every service, installations are being looked at and recommendations are being made based on military value," Griffin said during a brief news conference following his tour of the depot with U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.

He said the U.S. Department of Defense will make recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission as to which military installations will be closed or downsized, Griffin said. His mission, he said, will be to adjust to those decisions.


The president today is to nominate all nine members of the BRAC Commission, subject to Senate confirmation, according to the commission's Web site. The Department of Defense will make its recommendations for the commission no later than May 16, after which the commission has until Sept. 8 to recommend any changes to the president.

The president has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the recommendations. Then Congress has 45 legislative days to reject the recommendations in their entirety or they will become binding, according to the Web site.

The goal is to reduce military facilities by approximately 20 percent, with annual savings of $7 billion through 2011, the Web site states.

The BRAC process is not supposed to be political, but Shuster said the 1995 round, when Letterkenny was significantly downsized, was weighted to favor California.

"If I see Texas take some of the pain, I'll believe it's not political," Shuster said of President Bush's home state. "It's a competitive process. My biggest concern is to make sure it's not a political process."

Politically, however, it is a process in which most members of Congress have a stake. Griffin said the Army Materiel Command alone employs 48,000 people and has installations in 40 states.

"It's important for Letterkenny that he comes here and sees what's happening here," Shuster said of Griffin, who took over the command in November.

"I've been a customer of Letterkenny for many years," said Griffin, who commanded the 4th Infantry Division from 1999 to 2001. He praised the depot's efficiency and said he was "most impressed with what they're doing with what they've got."

One issue to be considered in base closings is whether an installation can increase its workload and missions without encroaching on surrounding communities.

"There is expansion room here, for sure," Griffin said of the depot, which covers more than 17,000 acres. Letterkenny is one of three Army depots that perform both maintenance and ammunition storage, according to the Army Materiel Command.

The amount of work and number of missions at Letterkenny has increased, according to depot figures. Employment has risen from approximately 1,700 in 2001 to more than 2,400, including about 300 contractor workers.

Shuster said, however, that other depots have probably seen their workloads increase with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other overseas deployments of U.S. armed forces.

In addition to missions such as tactical missile maintenance and ammunition storage, the depot reconditions Humvees and makes armor kits for those and other military vehicles, including heavy truck cabs and fuel tankers, according to depot officials.

Inspecting and repairing hundreds of mobile generators has become part of the workload in the past year or so, along with work on Force Provider tent cities used by troops overseas.

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