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Economic Forecasts

Base Closings Around the Country

Dozens of bases, each interwoven into local economies, are on the cutting block

Another round of military base closings and realignments is on tap in 2014 or 2015 -- the sixth since the Pentagon began axing installations built during the Cold War. More than 130 major facilities were shuttered in the first five rounds, the last of which occurred in 2005. The next round will likely slash several dozen facilities around the country.

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SEE ALSO: KNIGHT KIPLINGER: D.C.'s Economy Is Out of Touch

The Pentagon says more closings are necessary to cut excess capacity and save money. But bases are an important piece of local economies, providing many direct and indirect jobs. The prospect of more base closings unnerves members of Congress, who are often cheerleaders for home-state military bases and the federal money that comes with them. They're not eager to appoint a base closing commission just yet, but in a year or so, pressure from the Pentagon will force them to do so.

Base closings have a mixed impact on communities. Some facilities are successfully converted to thriving civilian uses. In Alameda, Calif., for example, where aircraft were once overhauled at the Alameda Naval Air Station, Hollywood movie studios are shooting films and start-up companies are working to bring electric cars and other new technologies to market. Other closed bases are not so successful.

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After consulting with sources on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, we've identified bases that are sure to be eyed for closing or realignments once the base commission gets rolling. They are:

Ft. Irwin

Location: San Bernardino County, Calif.

Population: 5,523 active-duty; 6,632 family members; 1,105 civilians

Founded: 1961

Size: 7 sq. miles

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $600 million

The base serves as a national Army training center, focusing on the battalion task force and the brigade levels of the service. If it is reduced in size in a base closing round, operations would be transferred to West Coast bases, most likely in California or Oregon.

Ft. Benning

Location: near Columbus, Ga.

Population: 33,000 active-duty; 53,808 family members; 6,824 civilians

Founded: 1918

Size: 182,000 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $6.1 billion

Ft. Benning is a central training ground for Army soldiers, providing recruits and veteran service personnel with training and support for overseas operations. While an entire closure of this base is unlikely, several parts may be trimmed or transferred.

New London Naval Submarine Base

Location: near Groton, Conn.

Population: 6,770 active-duty; 12,140 family members; 1,179 civilians

Founded: 1916

Size: 680 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $4.5 billion

Often called the home of the submarine force, the New London Navy base is among the largest of all Navy bases. Officers at this base train nearly every submariner in the Navy. A defense base closing commission will consider options to transfer parts of the base to other bases, including in Norfolk and Newport News, Va.

Ft. Riley

Location: northeastern Kansas

Population: 10,369 active-duty; 12,020 family members; 3,972 civilians

Founded: 1853

Size: 100,671 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $2 billion

Ft. Riley is home to the Army's 1st Infantry Division and serves as a central stationing ground for active-duty soldiers, training and Army Special Forces. While the base is legendary in Army history for its long service, it may be split up or pared back, with some of its operations transferred to Army bases in the western U.S.

Ft. Sill

Location: Lawton, Okla.

Population: 10,214 active-duty; 36,513 family members; 7,208 civilians

Founded: 1869

Size: 94,000 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $1.9 billion

Ft. Sill is the main Army base charged with field artillery, air defense artillery and electronic warfare training. Some of its operations could be assumed by East Coast bases and facilities that provide similar training.

Barksdale Air Force Base

Location: Bossier City, La.

Population: 5,372 active-duty; 1,534 reservists; 7,125 family members; 1,288 civilians

Founded: 1932

Size: 22,000 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $753.8 million

Barksdale is home to the 2nd Bomb Wing, the largest bomb wing in the Air Force's Global Strike Command. It is on a constant ready signal to send military aircraft overseas. Other bases, including in Montana and Virginia, could take over some of its operations if the base is trimmed or shut.

Ft. Leonard Wood

Location: Missouri Ozarks

Population: 5,408 active-duty; 12,183 family members; 2,716 civilians

Founded: 1941

Size: 97.6 sq. miles

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $3 billion

Ft. Leonard Wood specializes in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapon schooling. It often does joint work with the Department of Homeland Security. An entire closure of this large base is unlikely, but a realignment of several divisions is possible. Services it provides may be picked up by bases on the Gulf Coast that do some of the same work.

Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station

Location: Havelock, N. C.

Population: 8,069 active-duty; 27,132 family members; 6,040 civilians

Founded: 1941

Size: 8,000 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $2 billion

The Cherry Point air base houses Marine Transport Squadron 1, which trains search-and-rescue units used worldwide by the U.S. and allies, including Great Britain, Canada and Australia. It also serves as a training center for operators of military radars and satellites.

Eglin Air Force Base

Location: Okaloosa County, Fla.

Population: 8,249 active-duty; 1,321 reservists; 21,500 family members; 5,180 civilians

Founded: 1935

Size: 463,128 acres

Regional economic cost of base closing (first year): $1.4 billion

Eglin is home to the Air Force's Air Armament Center, a vital division that tests and distributes air combat weapons for the entire service. The base also works with contractors in developing, testing and evaluating air armament, navigation and guidance systems. Some of the work it does could be transferred to bases in the Northwest, including in Montana and Idaho.

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