City opens coffers to support Redstone
By By Mitch Freeman Madison County Record
The Tennessee Valley BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Committee will receive financial assistance from Madison to help prepare to defend Redstone Arsenal against potential 2005 base closure.
Representatives from the committee asked Madison to contribute at least $50,000 this year to the cause. Madison leaders responded favorably to the request for financial support and put the topic on the next financial committee meeting agenda.
Huntsville committed to provide $150,000 each year for the next three years. Decatur promised $50,000 a year, according to BRAC committee representatives.
In reference to the U.S. Missile Command relocation to Redstone Arsenal, committee representative Joe Rich said, "The biggest gainer was Madison. Less than 25 percent moved to Huntsville."
Committee representative Mike Ward explained BRAC as a process that was designed to decrease the military's real estate holding in a non-political way. The last round of military base closures happened in 1995 and the next round will occur in 2005.
The Department of Defense is already collecting data for use in the 2005 round, according to Ward.
The DOD would be making base closure decisions late in 2004 and implementing them in 2005. Money is needed immediately to fund base closure impact studies and to hire consultants to begin defensive preparation, Ward said.
Through economic statistics, Ward painted a bleak picture for the area, should Restone Arsenal close.
More missile command employees have a Madison zip code than any other in the area. According to a UAH study conducted in 2003, at least 52,000 local jobs were defense related.
In fiscal year 2002, the arsenal had a payroll of $1.4 billion. As a comparison, large local employer and defense contractor Boeing had a $174 million payroll.
The arsenal had a total budget of $17.55 billion and there were $2.2 billion in local contracts.
This round of base closures is expected to be much larger than any previous round. Ward said more than 100 bases potentially could face closure.
However, more than $224 million in construction has been done at Redstone since 1997 and more than $300 million in construction projects are planned.
The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce coordinates local BRAC committee efforts. Ward said the committee raised $500,000 in defense of Redstone Arsenal during the 1995 round of base closures.