Hagel and his underlings are likely to be looking hard for bases to close, and it’s almost inevitable that they will focus on Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.
Dobbins has long been one of the busiest Air Reserve bases in the country and shares a runway with Lockheed Martin and the Georgia National Guard. The runway was formerly shared by the Naval Air Station Atlanta until that facility fell victim to the most recent round of such penny-pinching in the mid-2000s as part of the congressional Base Realignment and Closure (or BRAC) process.
Closing Dobbins would not be the economic catastrophe that such an event might have been for Cobb three or four decades ago, thanks to the fact the county economy is so much larger and diverse than it was back then. But it would still be a tough nut to swallow and would do the Air Force no good, either. Not only does Dobbins boast a first-class runway long enough to handle the latest fighter planes (like the F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor) and the largest cargo jets (like the C-5 Galaxy), there’s also the fact that, by virtue of its being situated in a major urban area, it can draw on a deep pool of Reservists. Close the base, and many of those “Weekend Warriors” would either resign, retire or else have to drive hours and hours to reach another base from which to drill.
There are 2,500 people employed at the base, which has a total economic impact of $181.7 million.
There’s also the possibility such a closing would have a much-to-be feared domino effect that would dwarf the impact of closing just Dobbins. That is, if Dobbins goes, Lockheed Martin might be tempted to leave its 70-year-old plant here for a more modern facility elsewhere. There are 6,300 people working at LM at present, but employment there climbed to almost 30,000 during World War II and to just more than 30,000 during the Vietnam War.
So local business leaders are ramping up an effort to educate the public — and the Pentagon — about the value of the base. The base hosted the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours meeting two weeks ago, attended by more than 800 people. The local “Honorary Commanders” group sponsored by the chamber also has been active in educating the public. And the Atlanta Regional Military Affairs Council, headed by retired Major Gen. Jim Bankers, has produced a six-minute video touting the importance of the base.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is fully on board with the effort as well.
“What we want to do is be prepared to show the benefit of Dobbins Air Force base, what it contributes to the national defense system, what it contributes to the active duty and Reserve guard units, and sell the asset for what it is,” he said.
We encourage those working on the base’s behalf to spare no efforts to educate the public and decision-makers about its value. And we hope that Obama and Hagel can somehow be reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous saying that the best way to preserve peace and deter aggression is by preparing for war — and you can’t do that without having military bases.