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mlyonsd
08-26-2005, 08:38 AM
Everyone is a South Dakotan at heart.

BRAC Panel Votes to Keep Ellsworth Open
Friday, August 26, 2005
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WASHINGTON In a victory for South Dakotans, a federal commission has voted to keep open the state's Ellsworth Air Force Base (search (http://java script:siteSearch('Ellsworth Air Force Base');)), rejecting a Pentagon plan to close it.

In a vote of eight to one, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (http://www.brac.gov/) decided to not go ahead with the Pentagon's recommendation to move South Dakota's second-largest employer and its 24 B-1 bombers to Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. Ellsworth is home to half of the nation's B-1 bombers and employs about 4,000 people.

But the commission found that closing Ellsworth wouldn't save any money over 20 years, and that it actually would cost nearly $20 million to move the planes to the Texas base. The Pentagon had projected saving $1.8 billion over two decades with the closure.

"We have no savings, we're essentially moving the airplanes from one very, very good base to another very, very good base, which are essentially equal," commissioner Harold Gehman said about the proposal.
Sen. John Thune (search (http://java script:siteSearch('Sen. John Thune');)), the freshman Republican who unseated then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle partly on the strength of his claim he could help save the base, has spent the past few months working almost exclusively on saving the base, and, perhaps, his political future.

He applauded the commission for not just putting a rubber stamp on the Pentagon's proposal and said he and other Ellsworth supporters presented compelling arguments on the merits of keeping Ellsworth open that were based more on just its economic value to the state. They stressed the importance of the base not only in the current War on Terror but on combating emerging threats, as well.

"We were successful, I think, in getting those arguments in front of the commission and ultimately, they found what we believed to be true all along -- that Ellsworth is not only important to South Dakota but important to the nation as well," Thune told FOX News after the vote.
The fate of a major Air Force base in New Mexico, Cannon Air Force Base (search (http://java script:siteSearch('Cannon Air Force Base');)), also hung in the balance Friday as the BRAC panel debated whether to go along with the rest of the Pentagon's plan (http://www.defenselink.mil/brac/) to close various military bases throughout the United States. The Cannon base, along with Ellsworth, contribute heavily to their respective state economies.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (search (http://java script:siteSearch('Gov. Bill Richardson');)) was in the room waiting to hear the fate of the Cannon base.

The Pentagon proposed in May closing or consolidating a record 62 major military bases and 775 smaller installations to save $48.8 billion over 20 years, make the services more efficient and reposition the armed forces.

Within minutes of opening its Friday session, the nine-member panel also signed off on proposals to shift forces around Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

The commission wasn't expected to take up the revamping of the Air National Guard, a contentious proposal that some states have sued over, until the afternoon.

"Another sleepless night in Clovis," Stacey Martin, president of local chamber of commerce, had lamented after the commission put off a vote on Cannon until Friday.

The panel must send its final report to President Bush by Sept. 8. The president can accept it, reject it or send it back for revisions. Congress also will have a chance to veto the plan in its entirety but it has not taken that step in four previous rounds of base closings. If ultimately approved, the changes would occur over the next six years.
In May, the Pentagon proposed closing or consolidating a record 62 major military bases and 775 smaller installations to save $48.8 billion over 20 years, make the services more efficient and reposition the armed forces.

While casting doubt on the estimated savings, the commission has largely endorsed Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's effort to streamline support services across the Army, Navy and Air Force by merging similar programs scattered around small military facilities. However, the panel also bucked the Pentagon on a couple of large Navy base closures in New England that Rumsfeld wanted.

Across the country, communities anxiously awaited word on whether their Air Force bases would be scrapped or spared, as politicians who represent them flew to Washington to be present for the high-stakes votes and serve as personal reminders of their exhaustive efforts to persuade the commission to save their homestate bases.
"We're all on pins and needles, that's for sure," said Bill Okrepkie, a local council member in Rapid City, S.D.

Throughout the day, the commission plowed through dozens of Pentagon recommendations to consolidate education, medical, administrative and training programs and small facilities spread across the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Just before adjourning, the commissioners started in on the Air Force proposals, deciding to shutter the Onizuka Air Force Station in California and the Galena Airport Forward Operation Location in Alaska, which the Air Force uses for training and to land fighter jets when necessary.
Also in Alaska, the commission chose to keep Eielson Air Force Base operational, rejecting a Pentagon plan to sharply scale back personnel and aircraft there.

"The commission clearly saw our argument that its airspace and training facilities are too valuable and it is impractical to 'warm base' such a cold place," Gov. Frank Murkowski said.

Air Force officials say their proposal as a whole is designed to make the service more effective by consolidating both weapons systems and personnel as the force moves to a smaller but smarter aircraft fleet.
The Air National Guard plan would shift people, equipment and aircraft around at 54 or more sites where Guard units are stationed. Major Air Guard and Reserve facilities in Alaska, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would close. In some states, aircraft would be taken away from 25 Air Guard units. Those units would get other assignments such as expeditionary combat support roles. They also would retain their missions of aiding governors during statewide emergencies.

Shutting down Cannon would cost Clovis, N.M., a small town on the Texas-New Mexico line, nearly 3,000 jobs on the base and as many as 2,000 more related jobs in the community. The base that is home to four F-16 fighter squadrons represents a third of the local economy.

oldandslow
08-26-2005, 09:57 AM
Sure helps Rapid City.

mylon - what were your thoughts on the issue?

I felt that it should have stayed here simply because of the rurality of the base. Fewer people = fewer citizen deaths if it were to be hit.

mlyonsd
08-26-2005, 11:22 AM
Sure helps Rapid City.

mylon - what were your thoughts on the issue?

I felt that it should have stayed here simply because of the rurality of the base. Fewer people = fewer citizen deaths if it were to be hit.

Two reasons I think it's a good idea....

The rurality/central location of the base.
JMHO strategically I think it's a dumb idea to base all of your B-1 fleet together in one place.

From a political point of view Thune's career probably would have been over after one term if the base would have closed.

jAZ
08-26-2005, 11:37 AM
What I don't get is why would the panel reject the Pentagon's assertion that it would save the Pentagon XX dollars over 20 years.

What exactly is this commission, and what do they know that the Pentagon itself doesn't?

Smells like a political favor to me.

Which is bad but certainly not unheard of, and certainly very bi-partisan in the practice, no doubt.

But sketchy none-the-less, IMO.

Certainly good for those South Dakotans and good for Thune.

mlyonsd
08-26-2005, 11:47 AM
What I don't get is why would the panel reject the Pentagon's assertion that it would save the Pentagon XX dollars over 20 years.

What exactly is this commission, and what do they know that the Pentagon itself doesn't?

Smells like a political favor to me.

Which is bad but certainly not unheard of, and certainly very bi-partisan in the practice, no doubt.

But sketchy none-the-less, IMO.

Certainly good for those South Dakotans and good for Thune.

I admit I don't get it totally either.

I'm not sure but I'm guessing the commission looks at it from more then just a military point of view. They probably also take into account the economics of the area left behind, who they're getting kickbacks from etc.

In all seriousness I don't know the answers to your question.