Bliss-ful Gains, Painful Losses in BRAC for Texas

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Military transfers could bring more than 11,000 soldiers and civilian employees to Fort Bliss. That's the second largest gain for any installation under a plan proposed by the Pentagon.

Under recommendations announced yesterday, more than 16,000 military and civilian personnel currently stationed elsewhere would move to Fort Bliss. However, Fort Bliss would lose about 46,000 of its current employees as part of the plan.

About 12,000 soldiers currently make their home at Fort Bliss. Once the new units are in place and if the Pentagon recommendations are approved, Fort Bliss more than double its size.

The recommendations advance to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which has until September to send its suggestions to President Bush.

Other changes proposed include:
- Moving the Army's Air Defense Artillery School, housed for decades at Fort Bliss, to Fort Sill, Okla.
- Transferring major elements of the Germany-based 1st Armored Division to Fort Bliss. Various echelons now stationed in Germany and Korea also would move to Fort Bliss.
- Bringing a field artillery brigade from Fort Sill to Fort Bliss.
- Adding to Fort Bliss maneuver battalions, a support battalion and aviation units currently assigned to Fort Hood.

Sunday, Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison will tour locations around the state that stand to lose military personnel as a result of the proposed realignment. Texarkana, San Antonio and Corpus Christi are among the stops on their list.

"Senator Hutchison and I will be flying around to those three locations, in addition to Wichita Falls and Sheppard AFB, meeting with community leaders, explaining the process and plotting strategy with them going forward," Cornyn told News 3.

Cornyn said, on the whole, Texas stands to gain from the realignment.

Fort Hood officials aren't saying much, but the huge military post near Killeen could see a slight drop in numbers.

If Pentagon proposals for military reductions are adopted, the facility could return to the 2003 level of about 40,000 troops. The post is home to more than 43,000 troops right now.

More homes and business could start going up in Abilene after the Pentagon proposed shifting military jobs to Dyess Air Force Base. The installation could get 29 B-1B bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Dyess also could lose more than two dozen of its C-130s to other bases.

Pentagon officials estimate the transfers will mean 400 new jobs that will indirectly create work for about 360 people.

Dyess has a $400 million annual impact on Abilene's economy. And city officials expect an economic boost if the recommendations are accepted.

Real estate agents say current Dyess personnel who now feel more confident about buying a home or making other big purchases may start the initial economic push. The announcement also could help make business owners feel confident about investing in Abilene.