Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

It is crazy for the Army to even consider closing its Heritage & Education Center

I am told that the Army is very close to making a decision on whether to shutter its terrific Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As you all know, I consider the center’s Military History Institute a national treasure. Here’s a view by Col. Robert Black, author of a truckload of books about Army ...

U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center/Matthew B. Ridgway Collection
U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center/Matthew B. Ridgway Collection
U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center/Matthew B. Ridgway Collection

I am told that the Army is very close to making a decision on whether to shutter its terrific Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As you all know, I consider the center's Military History Institute a national treasure. Here's a view by Col. Robert Black, author of a truckload of books about Army Rangers.

By Col. Robert W. Black, USA (Ret.)
Best Defense guest columnist

The Army, through the taxpayers, the people of Pennsylvania, and friends from other states, has invested $48,000,000, which has given the Army and the nation a superbly functioning historical reference facility with a fully trained staff. The Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) answers thousands of queries from the public each year. Historians, military buffs, families doing genealogical research, and schoolchildren come to AHEC. Veterans have invested thousands of dollars to put memorial stones and bricks in place and plant trees honoring their units and comrades killed in battle.

I am told that the Army is very close to making a decision on whether to shutter its terrific Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As you all know, I consider the center’s Military History Institute a national treasure. Here’s a view by Col. Robert Black, author of a truckload of books about Army Rangers.

By Col. Robert W. Black, USA (Ret.)
Best Defense guest columnist

The Army, through the taxpayers, the people of Pennsylvania, and friends from other states, has invested $48,000,000, which has given the Army and the nation a superbly functioning historical reference facility with a fully trained staff. The Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) answers thousands of queries from the public each year. Historians, military buffs, families doing genealogical research, and schoolchildren come to AHEC. Veterans have invested thousands of dollars to put memorial stones and bricks in place and plant trees honoring their units and comrades killed in battle.

AHEC contains the finest military library in the United States. It is adjunct to the Army War College. Should our future generals be deprived of this resource? What is a college without a library?

While considering throwing away $48,000,000 at Carlisle, the Army is asking the taxpayer for $31,000,000 to begin construction of an Army museum at Fort Belvoir, VA. They seem to think of Fort Belvoir as being in Washington, D.C., but it is not. Fort Belvoir is on congested I-95 outside of the Beltway, twenty miles south of the attractions of Washington. Why would a visitor to Washington drive to Belvoir when they can visit Arlington National Cemetery and the Mall with the Washington, Lincoln, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam memorials? The Smithsonian has seven great museums. There is also the White House, Congress, and, indeed, page after page of attractions in Washington. These sites can be reached by parking the car and using the Metro — Belvoir is not on the Metro.

Carlisle is serviced by three interstate highways, I-76, I -81, and I-83, as well as U.S. Routes 11 and 15. Carlisle is on a major tourism trail from historic Revolutionary War sites at Philadelphia, Valley Forge, and Brandywine; through the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Hershey, historic Harrisburg, Civil War sites of Carlisle, Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and Antietam; and through Colonial war sites in Western Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh. It was from Carlisle in 1758 that British troops and American-born Rangers marched to seize the area that is now Pittsburgh.

The Army Times reports the estimated total cost for the planned Fort Belvoir Museum at $300,000,000. Adherents claim $50,000,000 have been pledged. They do not say how much of that money is on hand. It is likely that major donors would honor their pledges for an Army museum no matter where it was built.

Should not history matter in location for the Army Heritage Center, indeed for the Army museum? Fort Belvoir was not an Army installation until World War I; Fort Belvoir was not so named until 1935. Belvoir is located on what was once a slave-holding plantation. Carlisle Barracks dates from 1757.

Our nation is $14,000,000,000,000 (fourteen trillion dollars) in debt. We have major problems: unemployment is 9 percent; people have lost their homes; and medical care is at risk. The Army should not be allowed to waste our money. This issue has not been settled. We can and should fight this waste of our tax dollars.

Bottom line:

–Don’t move AHEC.

–Keep it funded.

–The Army museum is a worthy idea but the timing is wrong, and the setting and cost need another look.

What can you do? Write to:

Senator Pat Toomey
502 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Senator Bob Casey
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
Room 3E700
110 Army Pentagon
Washington DC 20310-0101

Chief of Staff of the Army (position being filled)
Room 3E672
110 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0200

General Robert W. Cone
Commanding General
Training and Doctrine Command
Fort Monroe, VA 23651 (his command oversees the War College and AHEC)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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