When scheduled construction begins later this year on the new Sustainment Center of Excellence near Mifflin Hall, it may be the most visible sign that the post’s Base Realignment and Closure implementation plan is making headway.
BRAC is the federal program to close military installations and realign others to maximize efficiency and reduce costs.
Under BRAC authorizations established in 2005, Fort Lee will become the home of several Army schools and Department of Defense organizations moving from other installations. The installation’s living and work spaces will nearly double and the annual population will increase 121 percent by 2011, the year BRAC will be completed.
“We’re well on track and very excited about the fact that we are,” said Esther Lee, deputy to the garrison commander. “We’re working very aggressively, and it’s been just a tremendous team effort to make this happen.”
Part of those efforts was to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, a document required by federal law that assesses through public input the effects of construction, people and operations on local environments. That 400-page-plus document was recently signed and forwarded to the Department of the Army, said Lee.
“We’re expecting that to be signed and back to us by the end of April,” she said.
DA’s approval of the EIS opens the way for construction to begin, however, there are a few issues that still need to be resolved, said Lee.
“We’re a little hung up at this point with the continuing resolution authority and cuts in the BRAC funding,” she said. “We’re waiting for that to be sorted out at the DA level, but we’re still very hopeful that we’ll receive the ’07 dollars that we need to proceed with our contracts.”
There are two major BRAC construction contracts that await approval this year. One, the SCOE, has a ground breaking scheduled for June 25.
One other, the Logistics University campus complex at the Army Logistics Management College, has no scheduled ground breaking.
“If all the stars and moons align,” said Lee, “we’ll have a contract in place for the construction of both of those projects on or about the 24th of May.”
The SCOE is the consolidation of four schools and a headquarters. It will occupy an area adjacent to Mifflin Hall, the current headquarters of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School. Mifflin Hall will be demolished upon the SCOE’s completion.
The Logistics University complex will include professional schools for Army multi-functional logisticians, both military and civilian.
The new complex will feature an expansion of the current ALMC building and the addition of two other structures.
Lee said that although construction should be in full swing within the coming months, there will be no major population increases within the coming year.
“About 70 percent of the (population) growth we’re going to get will be in FY ’09,” she said. “Our total annual supported population in ‘07 is 56,716. At the end of 2009, our annual supported population will be 81,141.”
To support that expected growth, the garrison has laid out a working strategic plan that addresses everything from basic operations and services to building layout and aesthetics. At the core of that plan is an ongoing process that brings together planners, builders and users to solicit their input.
“They get together and they identify what all the requirements are, and we sort of lay out what we think makes sense,” said Lee.
Still there will be growing pains, said Lee, because of the relatively tight four-year timeline the installation has to build facilities required by BRAC, and the fact that it is on the front end of the process to close or realign other installations.
“Part of the issue that we’re dealing with is that Fort Lee is part of the domino effect,” she said. “…We’re the first domino that has to fall so that the other dominoes can fall in an orderly manner. In turn, we’ll all wind up where we’re supposed to be by Sept. 15, 2011.”