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NEWS | Dec. 4, 2008

San Antonio joint basing plan takes shape

By Mike Joseph 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Joint Basing San Antonio (JBSA): The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In a nutshell, that seems to be Joint Basing San Antonio's effect on Lackland.

A 2005 recommendation from the Base Realignment Commission directed the realignment of installation management functions for Lackland, Randolph and Fort Sam Houston by Sep 2011.

"As far as support for our customers and their everyday experience, it will be transparent," said George DeCoux, Deputy of the Mission Support Group. "The real differences will occur in how the organizations are structured."

In possibly the most complex action BRAC has undertaken, cost savings is the purpose of the directive. The size and scope of San Antonio's three military installations, plus Lackland's Medina Annex and Camp Bullis, make accomplishing the directive complicated; but with the added geographical distance separating the installations and the complexity of their operations, the project grows immensely.

"Geography is our biggest challenge," Mr. DeCoux said. "All three installations are geographically separated by 22 and 33-miles not to include the annexes of Camp Bullis or the properties at Canyon Lake."

Joint Basing San Antonio headquarters will be located at Fort Sam Houston due to its central location to the three installations and two annexes.

The office will be under the direction of an Air Force wing commander, and an Army deputy commander with both Army and Air Force personnel staffing the wing office.

As another structural change, the 37th MSG, which currently falls under the 37th Training Wing, will become part of the newly formed 502nd Air Base Wing at Fort Sam Houston although physically it will not leave Lackland.
"It is important to emphasize that there are no plans to reduce personnel as a result of joint basing," said Mr. DeCoux. "We will still take care of all the wing missions that occur here today; that will not change."

"We have to maintain certain functions at certain installations. Maybe they won't need to be as robust, but they are still critical. It makes good business sense for San Antonio to bring similar installation support functions under one umbrella and discuss how we can operate more effectively and efficiently."

Twelve joint base locations around the country were identified by BRAC. The Air Force has the lead in six of the consolidations, the Navy four and the Army two.

Unlike San Antonio, many of the other targeted bases share fence lines that will make the transition less demanding and more cost effective. However, San Antonio still has an opportunity to learn from other joint basing actions that are further along in the process.

"To a certain extent, we are building the airplane as we fly, as Joint Basing is still relatively new to DoD," Mr. DeCoux said. "There have already been and we fully expect many more changes and lessons learned from not only what other installations have experienced but from our unique implementation process here in San Antonio."

The key dates are as follows: The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the three installations will be signed in fall 2009. Initial operational capability for Lackland and Randolph will transfer to JBSA in January 2010, Fort Sam Houston in April 2010, and complete command authority transfer with full operational capability will transfer in October 2010.

"We're working the MOA now," said Mr. DeCoux. "This document will define the process at each of the bases, and it will further define dollars required to provide the services our customers expect. We are discovering it's more complicated than we expected."

He explained that once a common level of support is established at the three installations, those organizations that want enhanced services above the norm will have to pay for it. In the meantime, equipment inventories, a facility condition study, and finding ways to blend the Army and Air Force support structures are just a few of the items that will be scrutinized by JBSA in an effort to save as many dollars as possible.

"With joint basing, the objective is to combine 'like' functions," said Mr. DeCoux. "Joint Basing will support the people who live and work at each installation every day. Each base will be responsible for its population but the Joint Basing Commander will be supporting the entire San Antonio military community of approximately 120,000 people on a daily basis. It's a massive undertaking and responsibility."

He re-emphasized, "The mission support functions and services that are available today for our customers will continue to be available once we have made the transition to Joint Basing."