Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

EDITORIAL >> Job preservation was BRACís focus

As the Base Realignment and Closure Commission was winding down its work outside Washington Friday evening, Anthony J. Principi, the commissionís chairman, offered an amendment to keep open the Niagara Falls, N.Y., Air Reserve Station, preventing the transfer of eight C-130s to Little Rock Air Force Base.

He didnít need an amendment: The commissionís staff had taken the base off the closure list, and Principi, who talks like a New Yorker, was relieved. The base would remain open because, as Principi said, it ďis the second-largest employer in western New YorkĒ and might become the largest if the biggest industry there shut down, which, judging from the pained expression on Principiís face, seemed imminent.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat from New York and formerly Arkansasí and Americaís First Lady, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, had fought to keep the C-130s from moving here. You canít blame her for standing up for her second adopted state, but military considerations had little to do with her stance.
Hundreds of other politicians and community leaders fought for their home bases, turning the BRAC process into a job-preservation effort instead of addressing the needs of todayís military, which is spread too thin at too many bases and must consolidate.

Unfortunately, the Base Realign-ment and Closure Commission weighed the economic consequences of closing too many bases and decided that preserving jobs was more important than building a lean military.

The commission rejected about $11 billion in savings that the Pentagon had hoped to realize by closing scores of bases around the country. The commission voted to keep open bases in Alaska, Michigan, South Dakota, Connecticut, Texas and elsewhere, ignoring the Defense Departmentís list of closings that would have saved Americaís taxpayers $48 billion over 20 years. The commission thought saving about $37 billion was enough.
The President and Congress will probably accept the BRAC Commis-sionís decision against closing all the bases the Defense Department wanted eliminated. Saving Niagara Falls, Ells-worth AFB in South Dakota and Pope AFB in North Carolina means fewer additional C-130s and personnel for us, although Pentagon officials could legally still move people and planes around any way they want to. If they believe the nationís military interests are better served when C-130s and their crews are consolidated at LRAFB, then by all means send them here even if the other bases stay open.