A federal commission studying potentially unneeded military installations doesn't know yet if it wants to close Fort Douglas, even though a number of other sources have put the fort on their hit list.
The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, the three major television networks and a number of other news outlets have contacted Fort Douglas officials and members of Utah's congressional delegation asking whether there will be a fight to save the fort if it is deemed unneeded or unprofitable and targeted for closure.Fort Douglas has been threatened with closure a number of times in years past and made the top five on media hit lists that began forming after Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci organized a 12-member Commission on Base Realignment and Closure that is to compile a list of bases that could be closed to save tax dollars and make military operations more efficient.
A reliable Capitol Hill source told the Deseret News' Washington bureau Wednesday the Army had a written list of installations it would recommend closing that is being forwarded to the commission and that Fort Douglas is on that list.
But public affairs officials for both Fort Douglas and the commission say there is no official list yet, so the fort in Salt Lake City has not been distinguished from the military's 3,800 other installations in the United States and its territories.
Neither the Army, Air Force, Navy nor Marines are supplying lists to the commission, which includes six congressmen and two retired military officers, so news that any branch of the service has already forwarded such information to the commission is inaccurate, said James G. Abbee, the commission's spokesman.
"They're supplying raw data for us to analyze, but they are not providing any kind of a list," Abbee said from Washington.
"There are a lot of speculative lists floating around," he said. "I had heard that (former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger) generated a list of 22 military facilities proposed for closure in 1985." Abbee said he had not seen that list, nor is it being used by the commission for reference.
The commission is to decide by Nov. 15 on its process for identifying bases to be closed or realigned. The official list of bases that could be affected isn't expected to start developing until after that date.
Maj. William Auer, public relations officer for the 96th ARCOM at Fort Douglas, said he's been interviewed by most of the major news services that on their
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own have speculated Fort Douglas would be recommended for closure. He is aware of the commission's activities but has heard nothing through official channels indicating Fort Douglas will be on the list that is due to Carlucci Dec. 31.
If the fort is named, or eventually tagged for closure, military tenants at Fort Douglas would then start looking for a place to relocate. No contingency plans have been made to see if space is available at Camp Williams in southern Salt Lake County or in commercial office space.
"We could make some real blunders if we started speculating," he said. "We don't even have a list of who they're investigating or what they're looking for."
Most news reports about Fort Douglas refer to the fort's creation under the Lincoln administration in 1862 as a post to protect stagecoach routes from Indian attacks.
The Civil War-era buildings on the installation tell of the fort's heritage, but the 314 full-time military and 300 civilian employees at the fort are carrying out modern military assignments - not chasing Indians.
"The stagecoach tag bothers people here," Auer said. A $24 million payroll is disbursed from the fort, which is the headquarters of the largest geographical Army Reserve command in the nation. Almost 3,000 reservists circulate through the fort for their part-time military duty, he said.
"This is a thriving reserve forces center," Auer said. "We are the Army in this region of the nation."
With half of the Army's total forces now in the reserves, "This would be an exciting place to be" in the event of a large-scale military mobilization.
About 95 percent of the floor space at the fort is being used; and all 64 of the fort's military living quarters are occupied. Auer said the net cost of $2 per square-foot makes the fort a real military bargain.
Auer would not speculate whether Fort Douglas would eventually make the commission's list or whether members of the commission would make field trips to Salt Lake City to look at the fort. He did say it would be very difficult to find comparable office space, especially in a single location, for all of Fort Douglas' tenants.