Still reason to be wary of military base closings

What others say

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It is not wise to go too far out on a limb, but there is a sense that Alaska may escape a worst-case outcome from the new round of actions by BRAC.

The acronym, as all the military people hereabouts know very well, stands for the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. For the fifth time since it was established in 1988, the nine-member commission will be making public a list of military bases that it believes should be closed or reformed in some drastic fashion.

The new list will be published May 16. It will be an almost drop-dead event for those installations on the chopping block. Although offered as ''recommendations,'' the BRAC list in many respects is set in stone. The Department of Defense has only limited authority to change anything on the list prepared by the panel, and must forward a final version to the White House by Sept. 8.

The president then has two months to consider what to do. But by Nov. 7, he must submit a final base closure list to the Congress, which then has 45 days to vote yes or no on the list. No cherry picking. No I'll-vote-for-your-Army-post-if-you-vote-for-my-Navy-base. Up or down. Yea or nay.

And the chances are, at the end of the first week in November, it will be a congressional yea vote.

In the past, there have been some grave worries that Fort Richardson might fall victim to BRAC. But it has survived, primarily perhaps, on the strength of the training grounds available here and because of its strategic location in the global scheme of things. Anchorage, and Fort Rich, are simply closer to the world's hot spots than most Army bases in the Lower 48.

But there is a need to be vigilant. There is a need for the state and the city to keep stressing to the nation, and to Washington, the value of Alaska training grounds. There is a need to see that other states, acting in their own self interest, do not succeed in telling a different story about Alaska bases.

Other states are not being idle. In Washington state, for example, Gov. Christine Gregoire is mounting a full-court press to be sure that McChord Air Force Base, Fort Lewis, the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and others in the area escape the knife. The military is Washington's largest employer, according to the Seattle Times, accounting for 188,000 direct and indirect jobs and an annual payroll of $7.2 billion. Said the governor: ''I actually hope that we expand our military force in Washington state as a result of BRAC.''

The Times says she and members of the Washington congressional delegation met earlier this month with BRAC officials in Washington. She also will lead a delegation from all of the state's military towns to Washington before the May decision date.

Alaska should be gearing up in the same way.

— Voice of the Times,

March 22

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