Puerto Rico seeks to protect its lone military base

A Puerto Rican government delegation was in Washington this week seeking to shield Ft. Buchanan, the island's lone remaining U.S. military installation, from the upcoming 2005 base-closing round.

The group presented to Pentagon officials a plan to enhance Buchanan's military value, as well as the economic and social benefits it offers to the Defense Department and the 15,000 reserve forces in Puerto Rico.

Eduardo Bhatia, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, said part of the plan would involve selling off a Puerto Rican National Guard property -- worth an estimated $30 million -- and consolidating the Puerto Rico Army National Guard with U.S. Army reservists at Buchanan, an effort they say would create savings for the Army Reserve.

But first, Puerto Rico officials must persuade lawmakers to lift a three-year-old building moratorium on the base to allow for construction, including a $30 million National Guard headquarters at Buchanan funded by the sale of the guard facility.

Although it is unclear whether House and Senate authorizers will remove the ban in defense authorization legislation this year, Bhatia said the Pentagon supports the idea.

"Of all the people we met with, 100 percent in the Pentagon wanted the moratorium lifted," Bhatia said. "It has created a problem in terms of recruiting personnel, for preparing Guard and reservists for work they have to do out in Iraq."

The moratorium was put in place in 2002 as an interim measure that was directly linked to continuing Navy training at Vieques Island. When the Navy closed Roosevelt Roads Naval Station near Vieques last year, taking with it 6,000 jobs and an estimated $300 million annually, the building moratorium on Buchanan remained.

"We are very enthusiastic for the future, but we need to lift this moratorium right away," Bhatia said, adding that the ban is so vaguely worded that officials at Buchanan recently questioned whether it was legal to repaint some buildings.

The U.S. military presence is a divisive issue in Puerto Rico, although the government supports increased investment in the last remaining base.

Puerto Rico Secretary of State Marisara Pont and Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Jorge Silva also were at this week's meetings. Puerto Rico would lose some $200 million in annual revenue if Buchanan is closed. For the time being, the base continues to play a critical role in recruiting and retention, an issue of importance to a military stretched thin with extended deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The base has the 16th highest overall contribution to the Army National Guard and reserve and the sixth highest per capita contribution of all states and territories.

"It is the place for recruiting a majority of National Guardsmen and reservists who have been fighting in the Gulf," Bhatia said.

Buchanan is also the only active Army post in the Caribbean basin area, boasting the nation's only fully bilingual and bicultural force and playing a major role in the Caribbean and South America. The base supports a total population of 105,000, with at least 23 federal agencies and nearly 2,000 federal dependents attending Buchanan's consolidated school.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.