Pitching Georgia

By Sebastian Sprenger / October 31, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Members of the congressional delegation from Georgia, as well as Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), this week lobbied the Defense Department to consider setting up the headquarters of U.S. Africa Command in the Peach State.

In an Oct. 30 letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, lawmakers argued Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA, would make a fine location for the new command.

Their pitch, complete with mention of a major defense contractor in proximity of the base, goes like this:

Dobbins has a substantial runway network as well as rail infrastructure that connects it with the Port of Savannah -- already a point of shipment for a significant amount of cargo bound for Africa. Further, given that the facilities in Marietta are presently shared by Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Naval Air Station Atlanta, the Georgia National Guard, and Lockheed Martin, they have long been a model for joint-ness within the Department of Defense, an important and unique characteristic given that AFRICOM will be a joint command and require coordination with many international partners and across numerous government agencies. With 52 acres of available property adjoining the base, any needed expansion of existing or construction of new facilities would also be unencumbered.

The letter this week follows a similar missive sent by Georgian lawmakers in August. That letter sought to advertise the locations of Ft. McPherson Ft. Gillem as possible locations for the AFRICOM headquarters. Both installations are located just south of Atlanta.

Pentagon officials apparently were already considering Dobbins, along with McPherson and Gillem, before lawmakers wrote to Gates yesterday, according to the text of the letter.

Currently, AFRICOM is based in Stuttgart, Germany, near the headquarters of U.S. European Command.

AFRICOM officials have said the command does not necessarily need a headquarters on the continent, but officials think some sort of presence there would be helpful.

“We believe AFRICOM will be more effective if some members of the staff are physically living and working on the continent, where they can meet face-to-face with their counterparts in African governments and nongovernmental organizations,” the command’s Web site states.