Randy Forbes: Fort Lee – a worthy fight

randy forbesThere’s a sense of pride among those who work and live there. It’s a linchpin in an operation that is bigger than itself. Locally, it is a key hub for economic development. The surrounding communities value it as a trusted partner and contributor to the well-being of its neighbors. Globally, it is a leader in logistics for both the private and public sectors.

And in 2005, it came really close to being shuttered. You wouldn’t know it today, but ten years ago Fort Lee – the vibrant military base tucked south of Richmond and nestled in the Tri-Cities region – was targeted for closure through the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round. At the time, the surrounding communities were gearing up for an economic blow, and naysayers said there was no point in fighting the closure. Closure is imminent, they said.

We disagreed. We saw a critical need for Fort Lee’s mission and envisioned a valuable future for the military base. So we fought. I, along with my Fort Lee Advisory Board and Tri-Cities elected officials, worked hard to position Fort Lee to come out better than ever. We succeeded beyond our wildest expectations.

Fort Lee doubled in size. 12,000 new jobs were added to the surrounding community. The Defense Supply Center Richmond remained open and vibrant.  Since 2005, the federal government has invested over $400 million into the region.  I’m proud of our fight for Fort Lee, because it was a mission worth saving.

Fort Lee is now laser-focused on defense logistics and home to several important U.S. Army commands. The U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Center trains Army personnel and helps develop the Army’s doctrine. The logistical triad of U.S. Army Quartermaster, Ordnance, and Transportation Schools trains Army personnel who specialize in supplying, arming, and moving the warfighter so they can execute their missions around the globe. The Army Logistics University is a composite campus for military and Department of Defense logistics leader education. This “state of the art” learning center provides professional military education, civilian education, and joint, multinational, and interagency education supporting America’s Army logistics leaders of today and tomorrow. The Defense Contract Management Agency manages Pentagon contracts with the purpose of providing the best return for taxpayer dollars. The Defense Commissary Agency operates the 241 defense commissaries worldwide that serve our men and women in uniform and their families by providing reasonably-priced goods at a convenient location.

Behind our men and women on the front lines, behind our responses to global crises, and behind those defending freedom around the globe are supply chains – critical logistics systems making sure we move people where they need to be, and supplies get where they need to go. Respected Navy Vice Admiral Oscar C. Badger II once said, “Logistic considerations belong not only in the highest echelons of military planning…but may well become the controlling element with relation to timing and successful operation.” A quick glance back in history shows his words to be true – armies are most often destroyed because their supply lines have been cut off.

For the Army of the future, quality logistics is the secret weapon – and Fort Lee is the logistics capital in the defense world. But all of this hard work, all of this capability we have built for the Nation, is now under threat as massive sequestration cuts prepare to attack our defense budget. As part of this, the Army is being forced to cut tens of thousands of soldiers, and possibly several thousand from Fort Lee. This isn’t occurring because a new national security strategy has called for them, but because arbitrary defense budget cuts have demanded they be made. I voted against sequestration cuts to our national security and have fought relentlessly to reverse them every day since, including introducing H.R. 733 that would remove the Department of Defense from sequestration. As a senior member on the House Armed Services Committee, and as a Subcommittee Chairman, I will continue to deliver the message that we simply cannot afford to dismantle the greatest military the world has ever known. Particularly at a time when, from Europe to Russia to the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific, the world is only becoming more dangerous.

Just as Fort Lee leadership, local elected officials, and I worked together in strategic partnership to bring Fort Lee to where it is today, I believe that same partnership can carry us through the challenges we face tomorrow. This is a worthy fight ahead of us. Because, as we move forward in addressing the growing threats of today’s world, Fort Lee’s leadership and logistical knowledge will be essential in meeting our national security demands around the globe.

Fort Lee is a national leader in ensuring a strong defense and a secure America. America’s national security is dependent on Fort Lee – and we must remain as committed as ever to ensuring its enduring success.

Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District in Congress.

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