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County leaders meet with Ala. depot officials

February 08, 2006|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In the past, Letterkenny Army Depot and Anniston Army Depot have been at odds in the Base Realignment and Closure process, but last week supporters of the installations met in Alabama to explore common ground and share ideas that could benefit both depots when the next round of base closings comes in 2015.

"They have an organization very similar to what we have in Opportunity '05," Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas said of the political, business and community coalition in Anniston that supported efforts to preserve and expand that depot in last year's BRAC process.

Opportunity '05 Chairman L. Michael Ross, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce President David Sciamanna, Thomas and a Letterkenny official visited Anniston last week, meeting with the depot commander, business leaders and other officials over two days, Thomas said. The trip was paid for by Opportunity '05, he said.

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"Anniston, Ala., has what is regarded as one of the best support teams for its depot," Thomas said Tuesday. Cooperation between state government and Alabama's congressional delegation is particularly strong, he said.

"Anniston is the model for that," Ross said Tuesday, speaking of the relationship between the community and the depot. The depot also aggressively pursues missions when the military considers moving them from other installations.

Both Anniston and Letterkenny fared well in the 2005 BRAC process with Letterkenny designated to receive additional workload. In 1995, however, Anniston was the beneficiary when the BRAC Commission voted to downsize Letterkenny and send some of its workload to other installations.

"Right now, we're not really competing for missions," Ross said. There are opportunities, however, where the depots can cooperate to gain additional missions, he said. Despite the 2005 success, the Army still plans to eventually close at least one of its five depots and Letterkenny and Red River Army Depot in Texas are likely targets, Thomas said. There is no guarantee that the Defense Department will not take some sort of action prior to 2015, Ross said.

The decision this week by the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority to create a Military Support District of approximately 260 acres in the adjacent Cumberland Valley Business Park is an example of how the community can bolster Letterkenny's chances against future cuts, Ross said.

While the depot has more than 17,000 acres of land, 13,000 of that is devoted to munitions storage, Ross said. There is still much open land on the depot, but the Military Support District creates an area where roads and utilities for depot expansion are already in place, he said.

It also creates an area where the depot can consolidate some functions in a more secure area, Ross said.

"Encroachment and security issues are going to be critical in the next round of BRAC," he said.

The need to aggressively pursue more work for the depot, secure funding and initiate building projects was stressed by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Logistics and Material Readiness P. Jackson Bell during a recent meeting with Letterkenny advocates, Ross said.

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