Base closing choices — it's all in the details

What others say

Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Frustration is building in several communities and states that will be affected, in a bad way, by the decision of the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to close or scale back dozens of major military installations and hundreds of smaller ones around the nation.

Why the rising anger? Officials of those communities and states — count Fairbanks and Alaska among them — say they aren't getting all the information they are entitled to from the Defense Department as they prepare to defend hometown bases before the independent nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

The issue is of critical concern to Fairbanks. ... The base, to the surprise of just about everyone in Fairbanks, faces the prospect of being placed on ''warm status,'' meaning it would lose its active-duty personnel and aircraft and become a part-time training base. About 3,000 people would be packed off to other locations.

To present the best and most confident case possible for keeping Eielson open, however, requires access to the information that supposedly supports the contention that the base should be reduced to an occasional parking lot.

This is not just an issue of concern to the Fairbanks region, either. Decisions that affect the nation's forward bases, such as Eielson, are of a national concern and must be subject to the utmost scrutiny, and that means members of Congress — and through them their constituents — must have access to all of the available information. Security concerns can readily be dealt with since many members of Congress and their aides have appropriate security clearances.

The law governing the BRAC process states clearly that ''In addition to making all information used by the Secretary to prepare the recommendations under this subsection available to Congress (including any committee or member of Congress), the Secretary shall also make such information available to the Commission and the Comptroller General of the United States.''

The hang-up in getting the information to Congress appears to be on the definition of ''all information.'' A Defense Department spokesman said the department believes it has complied with the law, but members of Congress, including Alaska Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, have been registering strong disagreement.

Members of Congress and others must continue to demand release of all information associated with the Defense Department's decisions on which bases to close and realign.

This is an issue that should also be of concern to the BRAC Commission itself. If commissioners are to have confidence in their own decisions, whether regarding Eielson Air Force Base or any other installation they discuss, they must be confident that the arguments being made to them by all parties are based on all of the information requested.

— The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

May 27

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