Saved by the bill: Army Corps stay put

July 21, 2011 Helen Klein
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Call it his ace in the hole.

A legislative maneuver by Congressmember Michael Grimm hassucceeded in making sure the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) staysput at Fort Hamilton Army Base, six months after it announced thatit intended to leave the base – where its annual operating expensescome to around $130,000 — for Manhattan digs, where annual rentcould be as much as $1 million.

Grimm inserted language in the Energy and Water AppropriationsAct that passed the House of Representatives on July 15, 219 to196, prohibiting ACE from using any funding provided through theact to move out of any military base on which it is currentlylocated. Since virtually all of ACE’s funding comes from the act,that move alone – once it’s approved by the Senate and signed intolaw by the president – would force the corps to stay put.

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Given that the next Base Realignment and Closure Commission(BRAC) is scheduled for 2015, that’s good news, since keeping thecorps at Fort Hamilton makes it less likely that the base will beone of those chosen for closure.

Even if [the cost] were the same, I still would have takenthese measures because Fort Hamilton is a major part of thecommunity, and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to keep it asstrong, robust and BRAC-proof as necessary, Grimm asserted.

Clearly, the corps saw the writing on the wall. We talked tothe representative and came to an agreement whereby we wouldn’tmove any of our permanent staff out of Fort Hamilton, said JustinWard, a spokesperson for the corps. The legislation is obviouslyin support of that.

Moving to Manhattan, said Ward, would have enabled the corps,to better cooperate with our partners. Now, we are trying to findother ways to improve business while following the letter of thelaw.

Grimm said he wanted to help with that. Now we go on to phasetwo, he explained. I am going to do everything possible toaccommodate their needs so they are comfortable and happy in ourcommunity.

One possibility, he said, was finding some available officespace in a federally-owned office building across the East Riverthat might be designated for the corps’ use when they need to bein Manhattan, but they would still report to Fort Hamilton. I thinkthat’s a very commonsense compromise, that they would have accessto space without moving anyone.

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