Measure would retain Fort Greely for missile defense

Posted: Sunday, July 08, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A bill headed for the U.S. Senate floor on Monday contains a provision that would allow the secretary of Defense to retain Fort Greely so the post can be used for missile defense.

The language is in the Senate version of the supplemental spending bill for this fiscal year.

The official end of Fort Greely's downsizing comes on Friday, the result of a closing process that started in 1995.

The Senate language appears to be a hedge against the post being disposed of in such a way that would prevent its use for a national missile defense site.

''Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the secretary of Defense may retain all or a portion of Fort Greely, Alaska as the secretary deems necessary, to meet military, operational, logistics and personnel support requirements for missile defense,'' the bill states.

The House version of the supplemental bill, passed June 20, does not contain the language. Nor did the version submitted by President Bush, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Hansen.

Defense Department officials have said they want to eventually locate defensive missiles at Fort Greely as part of a system designed to shoot down any ballistic missiles launched from other countries against the United States.

Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, spokesman for the Defense Department's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, said he had seen the language in the supplemental bill. He said it appears to keep the military's options open with regard to the post.

''It is a planning option for missile defense, and obviously we'd like to keep it viable in terms of the infrastructure,'' Lehner said.

In the meantime, Chenega Corp. has been selected to maintain the post after Friday. The Alaska Native corporation, whose original shareholders hailed from the Prince William Sound village of the same name, is advertising for maintenance positions in Delta Junction.

Jeff Hueners, Chenega's chief operation officer in Anchorage, said the company was selected by the military through a sole-source procedure available to minority-owned contractors. Chenega and several other Native corporations made ''capability presentations'' to the military several weeks ago in hopes of landing the contract, he said.

Hueners said he didn't want to disclose the value of the contract since the paperwork isn't signed yet.

Fort Greely is the last U.S. Army base in the nation to close, out of 139 tagged for closure or ''realignment'' under a process that Congress launched in 1988. Fort Greely was first targeted in 1995.

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