Merging Bases

A Pentagon initiative will turn Pearl Harbor and Hickam into a joint base by 2010

The fence line between Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Hickam Air Force Base is coming down.

It’s all part of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s transformation proposal to create 12 joint Navy, Air Force and Army bases out of 26 by 2011.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission mandated consolidations of 26 military bases by 2011, including:

*The Navy will command Pearl Harbor Naval Station and Hickam Air Force Base; Guam Naval Base and Andersen Air Force Base; Anacosta Naval Annex and Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.; and Norfolk Naval Station and Fort Story in Virginia.

*The Army will take over the operations of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base in Washington state; and Fort Myer and the Marine Corps’ Henderson Hall in Virginia.

*The Air Force will manage Charleston Air Force Base and Charleston Naval Weapons Station in South Carolina; McGuire Air Force Base, Fort Dix and Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey; Andrews Air Force Base and Engineering in Maryland and Naval Air Facility in Washington, D.C.; Elemendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson in Alaska; Lackland and Randolph Air Force bases and Fort Sam Houston in Texas; and Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis in Virginia.

The requirement goes back three years when the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission mandated that the Air Force will manage six joint bases, the Navy four and the Army two.

At Pearl Harbor, Navy Capt. Taylor Skardon, who heads the naval station, said “joint basing is a partnership, not a takeover.”

Under the consolidation plan, Skardon and his successors will be the overall commander of what will be called Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.

Air Force Col. J.J. Torres, currently commander of the 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam, would assume the role of the deputy of the combined facility. Both Skardon and Torres will leave their posts this summer for other assignments.

During a recent interview, Skardon said the Pentagon looked at bases that were near each other “and came up with the idea of joint bases with the hopes of more efficiency and cost savings.”

Air Force and Pearl Harbor officials don’t have the exact number of civilians who may lose their jobs because of the consolidation.

Hickam has 6,500 personnel, of which 1,344 are civilians. At Pearl Harbor, there are 1,175, of which 721 are civilians.

In some parts of the mainland, the consolidation of services has caused clashes.

In North Carolina, elected officials are fighting a BRAC 2005 initiative to close Pope Air Force Base and transfer its authority to the XVIII Airborne Corps headquartered at neighboring Fort Bragg, which has been the headquarters and main base of the Army’s airborne forces.

Torres said until a study is completed on “the work requirement is needed by the two bases, we can’t make a determination” on how many civilian jobs could be eliminated at either Hickam or Pearl Harbor.

The two military leaders said studies are now under way to compare how the Navy and Air Force run the two bases, with the intent of identifying and applying the best alternative and putting it into operation by October 2010.

For instance, Hickam maintains a civil engineering squadron of about 500 people, half of which are civilians, Torres said.

At Pearl Harbor, similar construction and maintenance work are done by its public works center, which employs about 1,500 people, Skardon said.

Both military bases maintain similar services such as plumbing, electrical work, food service, recreation, lodging, community and morale programs, police, fire, chapel, youth activities, transportation, finance, public affairs and housing.

Torres this idea of joint bases is centered around two goals — “gain efficiency where we can for the taxpayers” and “preserve the warfighting capabilities” of the Navy and Air Force here.

“If we do it right,” Skardon added, “this joint base should enhance and support our warfighting capabilities.”

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