Murphy's Law: October 22, 2004

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Military jointness is being put to the acid test with a proposal to shut down the U.S. Marine Corps recruit training (boot camp) facility at Parris Island, South Carolina, and moving the marine recruit training 240 kilometers to the army training base at Ft Jackson, South Carolina. The Parris Island base covers 8,000 acres, while Fort Jackson sprawls over 52,000 acres. The army has room for the marines, and Fort Jackson is the army's largest recruit training facility. 

The Department of Defense wants to close over twenty percent of the bases it currently uses, mainly because it has more space available than it has troops. This unneeded space wastes billions of dollars a year. But closing a base arouses anger in Congress, since a military base long been seen as a prime piece of patronage to keep the folks back home happy. Take away a base, and the incumbent politicians (both local and federal), are at risk of losing elections. 

Closing the smaller Parris Island base, and moving its activities to an army base in the same state, appears to have overcome some of the political danger. The benefits of the move are obvious. The marines could share the army base infrastructure for training areas, food service, medical care (especially the base hospital), security and fire service, maintenance and other services.

On the downside, some new facilities will have to be built. No matter what the army has vacant and available, it will not exactly suit what the marines need. This will also be a good test of the Department of Defenses proposal that there be more joint bases. However, the Parris Island base carries a lot of history with it, and the marines public relations machine can muster a considerable mass of public and Congressional opinion to the cause of saving the base. That said, most closed bases end up being a net gain for the surrounding community. But the process is contentious and painful for all concerned. 

 


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