WASHINGTON, DC — It's still too early to tell how the Department of Defense's recommendation to close 33 military bases could affect fitness facilities in those locations but that hasn't stopped some in the fitness industry from speculating.
If the recommendations are followed, Georgia's Fort McPherson, headquarters of the U.S. Army Forces Command, which directs deployment for Army personnel, would be closed, along with the Naval Station in Pascagoula, MS; Fort Monmouth in New Jersey; Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico; Fort Monroe in Virginia; and Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
Steve VanWert, public affairs officer for the Air Force, said that the list was not yet official and that if it was approved, the actual moves probably wouldn't be made for another two to four years. A Navy spokesperson agreed that in the next few months some recommendations may change, meaning speculation at this time is unwise.
“This is really a long-term project,” VanWert said.
However, that hasn't stopped fitness industry professionals from trying to figure out what it might mean for the fitness industry.
Michael Rojas of Iron Grip has been following the military base closing news for the last few weeks.
“Since there are only 318 major bases in the United States, 33 is definitely a lot to close,” he said. “Many of the bases are very substantial, and some of these bases have multiple fitness facilities on them, so the impact on fitness manufacturers certainly has the potential to be negative. We're not certain that will be the case, however, as the military will actually be expanding facilities at 46 of its remaining major bases, so the net effect may in fact be positive. And of course, the list of bases that will ultimately be closed will likely change as each state presents its case in Washington, so it's really too early to tell.”
Former Navy Seal and military fitness author Stew Smith said that with America's obesity epidemic, fitness would always be in high demand at military facilities.
“I imagine some regions will see an impact economically, but for the most part with a majority of Americans being overweight, the fitness industry will thrive for generations to come. We just have to be flexible,” Smith said.
Government officials said base closings and realignments were hard on the communities affected by the changes. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld pledged to help the communities and workers that would be displaced by the process.
“The department will take great care to work with these communities, with the respect that they have earned, and the government stands ready with economic assistance,” he said in a press conference about the cuts.
If the closings and realignments are approved by the president and Congress, it could mean the end to 29,000 military and civilian jobs.
The list, which was sent to the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), also calls for the closure or realignment of 775 smaller military locations. Rumsfeld said the closings would save the U.S. military almost $50 billion over two decades.
May 13, 2005, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld forwarded the department's recommendations to BRAC.
The commission will then forward its report on the recommendations to the president by Sept. 8, 2005.
The president will have until Sept. 23, 2005, to accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety.
If accepted, Congress will have 45 legislative days to reject the recommendations in their entirety or they become binding on the department.