City can’t ignore BRAC wakeup call

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In all likelihood, some readers of the Business Journal will not react strongly after they check out the Focus story in this issue by staff writer Amy Gillentine, extensively describing the potential threat facing Colorado Springs in the military’s next Base Realignment and Closure process, expected to begin in 2015.

Calm down, you’re just trying to scare us, they might say. We have two years before this BRAC process comes to a head. We’ll be ready when the time comes. No sense in worrying too much about it now. After all, the military loves it here, right?

We can only hope that reaction will come from a small, hopefully tiny minority. Because apathy, or even simply a lack of urgency, could have serious consequences for Colorado Springs and El Paso County.

The message in that Focus story, under the headline “The time is now,” could not be clearer. Our city and area — actually, let’s include the state of Colorado — are slipping behind the power curve in positioning ourselves for the BRAC battle ahead. Other states and cities already are laying the groundwork, willingly doing whatever it takes, to set their strategies for trying to “steal” some, if not many, of our prized and economically lucrative military assets.

The good news is that it’s not too late. Colorado Springs has some sensitized and aggressive business leaders such as Scott Bryan, owner of Bryan Construction Co. and a willing force in pushing the community to start cranking on a plan to make the most of BRAC.

Granted, we are fortunate to have the commands and missions already located here at Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy. But that doesn’t mean the military leaders in our midst will influence the BRAC outcome. They can’t, and they won’t. They have to stay in the background, and even the high-ranking officers already know they cannot comment, which explains why you don’t see any quotes from the military in that Focus story.

That’s OK. We already know what Colorado Springs can do, starting as soon as possible, to make the strongest case for the BRAC commission. It means developing more partnerships to help the Army and Air Force reduce their operational costs. It means more outreach, finding new ways via local and state governments to help active-duty military families. It means involving the dozens of retired general officers living in our area, all with ideas and contacts from their years of service.

It also will mean doing what we can to fulfill some wish lists. For example, the Air Force feels severely constrained by the limited space at Peterson AFB, and its missions could realize a huge benefit from having additional land east and southeast of the airport. There’s another idea of perhaps finding a developer to build a golf course outside the base but nearby, open to military members, allowing the Air Force to utilize the current Peterson golf course for mission-critical purposes.

If the city could find a way to tackle all of that, while also working on other BRAC-related priorities, Colorado Springs will be on its way. Who knows, we might even be able to attract other programs as a result of base closures elsewhere.

But let’s not be greedy. Let’s just get to work.