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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 8/26/2005 10:45:21 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/26/2005 10:50:25 AM EDT by dugedug]
Small victory for us SD'ers, until next time... Bolded items for my viewing pleasure.



BRAC Panel Votes to Keep Ellsworth Open
Friday, August 26, 2005

WASHINGTON — In a victory for residents and workers in South Dakotan and New Mexico, a federal commission has voted to keep open the Ellsworth and Cannon Air Force bases, rejecting a Pentagon plan to close them and other military bases throughout the country.

In a vote of eight to one, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission decided to not go ahead with the Pentagon's recommendation to move Ellsworth Air Force Base (search) — 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), 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 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.

New Mexico Wins 'Partial Victory'

The panel also recommended that Cannon Air Force Base (search) in New Mexico stay open but that its operations be greatly reduced. The base, the economic lifeblood of tiny Clovis, N.M., would stay open — at least until Dec. 31, 2009 — but the base would lose all of its aircraft.

Gov. Bill Richardson (search), D-N.M., who was at the hearing, welcomed the chance at a compromise, saying keeping the base opened in a diminished capacity would be a "partial victory."

The panel found that closing Cannon, home to four F-16 fighter squadrons, would put a 20 percent dent in the local economy, costing the community almost 3,000 jobs on the base and as many as 2,000 more related jobs in the community near the New Mexico-Texas line.

Several commissioners said those stark numbers had convinced them to vote to keep the base open. But others advocated closure. Chairman Anthony Principi (search) called closing the base "very painful but also necessary" as the Air Force seeks to restructure itself to face future threats.

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.

In related news, a federal judge ruled Friday that the Pentagon lacks the authority to close a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit without the governor's approval. The part of the Defense Department report "that recommends deactivation of the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard is null and void," the judge ruled.

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

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.

"We're all on pins and needles, that's for sure," said Bill Okrepkie, a local council member in Rapid City, S.D.

On Thursday, the commission plowed through dozens of recommendations to consolidate education, medical, administrative and training programs and small facilities spread across the Army, Navy and Air Force. It decidedg 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Link Posted: 8/26/2005 10:55:18 AM EDT
I'm in the Air Guard and I don't understand how the Pentagon has no say in where it bases its jets when it comes to the guard.

I guess they could always say "you can keep the base open, but we won't fund it."
Link Posted: 8/26/2005 11:13:26 AM EDT
Bones!!!

Link Posted: 8/26/2005 1:45:57 PM EDT
good now they can follow soot here in nc and leave pope afb alone.
Link Posted: 8/26/2005 1:49:08 PM EDT
Wtf? If those civilians want to work for the military so bad why dont they join it? Those idiot politicians make military bases sound like welfare checks.
Link Posted: 8/26/2005 1:51:49 PM EDT


We got to keep our sub base up here too Probably a small victory, but it'll keep a lot of people employed up that way.


Link Posted: 8/26/2005 1:53:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By crazyhorse705:
good now they can follow soot here in nc and leave pope afb alone.




Why would you wanna follow soot ? Don't got no chimney sweeps down that way ??

Link Posted: 8/26/2005 1:56:20 PM EDT
They might as well just name John Thune "Senator for Life" in South Dakota. He campaigned on keeping that AFB there and it looked like he might not be able to deliver for a while

Link Posted: 8/26/2005 1:58:35 PM EDT
The dumb jerks at Daily Kos celebrated too early.
dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/8/26/105830/025


Link Posted: 8/26/2005 2:00:23 PM EDT

Originally Posted By crazyhorse705:
good now they can follow soot here in nc and leave pope afb alone.



Is Pope on the list? I thought that's where FORSCOM was going to go when McPherson closes.
Link Posted: 8/26/2005 2:11:24 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/26/2005 2:11:43 PM EDT by eodtech2000]

Originally Posted By H46Driver:

Originally Posted By crazyhorse705:
good now they can follow soot here in nc and leave pope afb alone.



Is Pope on the list? I thought that's where FORSCOM was going to go when McPherson closes.



That is the plan last I heard, that FORSKIN FORSCOM was going to what was formerly Pope.
Link Posted: 8/26/2005 2:59:36 PM EDT
At first I agreed with the closure. But I don't want SD to turn into MN and not have a AFB. It took politics to keep it open, but something tells me it was politics that tried to close it in the first place after seeing how some numbers were fudged. I was on Ellsworth in 2004 and many of the buildings were new and alot of money was still being poored into the base to renovate it. Ellsworth isn't just a bomber base. There is ROTC field training there all summer long(reason I was their).
Link Posted: 8/26/2005 3:14:47 PM EDT
Link Posted: 8/27/2005 5:16:27 PM EDT
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