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ARLINGTON, Va. — The needs of troops fighting overseas trumped the desire to save money in at least one case when Base Realignment and Closure officials spared an important Army depot Wednesday.

The commission scuttled plans to close Red River Army Depot in Texas because of concerns that dramatic changes there could slow vehicle maintenance and munitions production to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Clearly, with the state of war that we’re in, I think it would be a mistake to take away this capacity,” said commissioner and retired Air Force Gen. Lloyd Newton. “This is the wrong time.”

Commissioners noted that Red River has seen its vehicle repair and armor retrofitting duties double over the last two years, and the Army’s overall maintenance operations already are near full capacity. The depot specializes in repairs of Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

“Clearly, when this was first considered, the Army anticipated their needs would go down,” said commissioner Samuel Skinner.

“But because of uncertainty whether the vehicles in the Middle East will come back, to close this facility appears to tie the Army’s hands at just the wrong time.”

The commission did approve relocating the depot’s tactical missile work to Pennsylvania and shut down its fuel supply and storage responsibilities. That will eliminate about 360 military and civilian jobs from the facility, about 2,000 fewer than if the vehicle and munitions missions were removed.

Similar overseas support arguments could not save Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, which supplies computer networking and procurement support for the war on terror. Commissioners agreed with the Defense Department’s decision to close that base and reassign most of its functions to facilities in Maryland.

The panel did insert language into the base closing list to require that the department make those new facilities fully operational before shutting down Fort Monmouth, to ensure that troops overseas don’t see gaps in their support.

The move will relocate more than 640 military personnel and almost 5,400 civilian jobs.


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