NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA-Bruce Robinson, president of locally based GMH Communities Trust’s military housing division, expressed optimism following the release of the Department of Defense’s recommended base closings. GMH has housing contracts at just two of the bases on the list: Naval Submarine Base in New London, CT and Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, ME.

“Based on the preliminary information released by the DoD today, we possibly will lose approximately 2,000 housing units under our current military housing projects,” Robinson says. “However, it also appears that more than 16,000 military personnel will be relocated to bases covered by our projects. We certainly expect that this increase will more than offset any losses in the number of housing units located at bases subject to closure.

“With the limited scope of information provided at (the DoD press conference), it is difficult for us to ascertain the net impact that realignment will have on the number of housing units under our projects, but we will continue to monitor the BRAC Commission’s actions,” Robinson says in a statement. He also noted that political pressure, exerted by states and localities, “will increase sharply over the ensuing months,” and the recommendations could change as the BRAC review process progresses.

A spokesperson tells, “this is a long process,” and declined to identify the bases at which GMH has contracts that might gain from realignment. “(We) will provide any additional information regarding any material impact on the company’s military housing operations as it becomes available,” she says.

Meanwhile, the Naval Air Station at Willow Grove, which covers more than 1,000 acres in Montgomery County, is Pennsylvania’s hardest-hit military installation on the BRAC closure list. It employs approximately 1,200 military and civilian personnel. Second is Pittsburgh International Airport Reserve Station, which employs more than 300, primarily civilian workers. However, in addition to the more than dozen, mostly small bases recommended for closure on the list, are about a half dozen to which military personnel will be redeployed, giving the state a net gain of about 1,000 jobs.

Nevertheless, Gov. Ed Rendell and Senators Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum vow to mount a tough defense for Willow Grove. Rendell said the state will dedicate $1 million to help fund attempts to persuade the BRAC Commission to remove local installations from the closure list. “Over the last four BRAC rounds, Pennsylvania has suffered a disproportionate share of BRAC cuts and we have paid more than our fair share,” he said during a press conference at Willow Grove.

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