Alabama took its first major step this month in preparing for expected military cuts by hiring a consultant to prepare for the next Base Realignment and Closure round.
The Military Stability Foundation, a not-for-profit corporation that received $275,000 from the state general fund this fiscal year, accepted a bid from Spectrum Group/Principi Group this month to help protect the state’s four major military installations, including Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.
“The foundation hired the consultant,” said Chuck Carver, executive director of the foundation. “It’s two groups that came together to bid on this contract. Their primary mission is to be the eyes and ears of Alabama in the Washington area.”
About 14 groups bid on the contract, Carver said.
He said the groups, which include many retired military officers, will collect information from the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry.
Carver said the groups will receive a monthly fee, but details on the amount and services are still being worked out.
Local efforts to influence BRAC will continue, Carver said. Spectrum-Principi will provide local delegations with information and will keep state officials updated.
“The Military Stability Foundation cannot, by law, interfere with what the local folks are doing,” Carver said. “We’re charged to provide support to the local areas. The reason we chose to spend the money (on a consultant) is so we can provide intel, information and documentation on what’s going on in Washington, so they can do a better job of strategizing and planning.”
The timing of the next BRAC is uncertain, but past realignments show it can have profound positive or negative effects on Alabama installations.
“We’re preparing Alabama to compete with other states across the country over the next round of BRAC, which we think will be 2015,” said State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, one of 18 members of the state Military Stability Commission, an unfunded state agency that works with the foundation.
“You can also lose in BRAC, as some communities know, so we’re playing both offense and defense against competitors around the country,” Orr said.
A BRAC round in 1995 resulted in the closure of Fort McClellan in Anniston. The Defense Department has closed more than 350 installations in the course of five rounds of BRAC. The 2005 BRAC added thousands of personnel to Redstone.
Carver said he expects federal budget constraints to reduce the Defense Department budget by as much as 20 percent. If Congress fails to compromise before automatic spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1, the cuts would be much larger.
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, who spoke at Kiwanis Club of Decatur on Thursday, is head of the state Military Stability Commission. The state’s funding for the private foundation was essential, she said.
“This has enabled us to contract with a firm skilled in this arena of impacting the Department of Defense,” Ivey said. “There’s a private fundraising effort to add to that so we can be really effective at impacting the decision of the DoD. It’s a public-private partnership.”
Carver said the state Military Stability Commission had limited authority.
“The commission has no mechanism to make contracts or spend money, so they formed the foundation to take action in their name,” Carver said. “We get direction from the commission.”
Carver said the foundation can accept money from the state and private corporations. Formed last year, it already has received private donations.
“Sometimes people don’t want their contributions known,” Carver said. “We’re not required to release the donors. That’s something we have to discuss with the board. Everything we do with the state money will be absolutely public information.”
The limited state funds, he said, means private contributions will be important.
“We’re about to be involved in a fairly aggressive fundraising campaign to increase the amount we already have, which is not much considering the job we’ve got to do,” Carver said.
Florida, which also hired the Principi Group, may have a head start on Alabama. Last month, a Florida task force released parts of a 991-page study — prepared by Spectrum Group for $1.48 million — evaluating the state’s military installations and setting goals to improve its position in the next BRAC.
Anthony J. Principi founded the Principi Group. A former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, he was chairman of the 2005 BRAC Commission.
Carver said his foundation’s contract with Spectrum-Principi prevents the consultant from taking sides between its state clients.
“Let’s say Alabama and Florida compete for one particular activity,” Carver said. “They can advise both, but they’ve got rules to follow on keeping them separate.”
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