BRAC List Released

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The Pentagon Friday recommended closing Naval Station Pascagoula, the U.S. Army Reserve Center at Vicksburg, and the Mississippi Army Ammunition plant at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.

Key Field Air Guard Station in Meridian is slated to lose 33 military personnel and 142 civilian jobs.

Naval Air Station Meridian is recommended to lose 15 military jobs and one contractor under the Pentagon's recommendations.

Columbus Air Force Base is to gain 104 soldiers and three civilians under the plan.

Naval Station Pascagoula could lose 844 active duty military personnel, 112 civilian workers and seven contractors, if the plan is approved. The proposed plan recommends shutting down 150 military installations nationwide, including 33 major bases.

Summary of DoD BRAC Recommendations for Mississippi, as provided by the office of Sen. Trent Lott, which includes some more detailed information:

Columbus Air Force Base: Gain 104 military, 3 civilian

• Relocate from Moody AFB, GA, the Primary Phase of Fixed-Wing Pilot Training

• Relocate from Moody AFB, GA, Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals Training for Weapons

Human Resource Support Center Southeast: Lose 138 civilian, 10 contractors

• Relocate from leased installation at Stennis to Naval Support Activity, Philadelphia, PA

Jackson International Airport Air Guard Station: Gain 1 civilian

• The 186th Air Refueling Wing’s firefighter positions move to the 172nd Air Wing

Keesler Air Force Base: Lose 181 military, 31 civilian, 190 contractors

• Disestablish the inpatient mission at the 81st Medical Group (i.e., Keesler Hospital)

• Convert the Medical Center (i.e., Keesler Hospital) to a clinic with an ambulatory surgery center

Key Field Air Guard Station: Lose 33 military, 142 civilians

• Realign KC-135R aircraft to the 128th Air Refueling Wing, General Mitchell Air Guard Station, WI; 134th Air Refueling Wing, McGhee-Tyson Airport Air Guard Station, TN; and 101st Air Refueling Wing, Bangor International Airport Air Guard Station, ME.

Mississippi Army Ammo Plant: Close, Lose 4 civilians, 50 contractors

• Relocate the 155MM artillery metal parts functions to Rock Island Arsenal, IL

Naval Air Station Meridian: Lose 15 military

• Relocate religious training and education to Fort Jackson, SC

Naval Station Pascagoula: Close, Lose 844 military, 112 civilian, 7 contractors

• Relocate ships along with dedicated personnel, equipment, and support to Naval Station Mayport, FL

U.S. Army Reserve Center Vicksburg: Close, Lose 26 military, 2 civilian

• Relocate units into a new Armed Forces Reserve Center and Area Maintenance Support Activity in Tuscaloosa, AL

The Pentagon's recommendations now go to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which will hold public hearings before presenting its recommendations to President Bush. Congress ultimately must approve the final list.

Cong. Chip Pickering released the following statement on the Pentagon's recommendations to the Base realignment and Closure Commission. Meridian, Columbus and part of the Jackson area are in his district.

"We're pleased the Department of Defense recognized the military value of our bases in Meridian and Jackson. These facilities are too valuable and effective and the communities too supportive for the military to close them."

[Key Field] "While we are seeing a reduction of personnel at Key Field in Meridian, we intend to fight for these jobs and grow this facility. We will work with the BRAC commission to try to maintain the tankers and work with Senators Cochran and Lott and Governor Barbour to bring new missions and new opportunities to the area. The Reserve and National Guard facilities in Alabama and Louisiana were devastated today; we are excited to keep Key Field open."

[Meridian NAS] "The Meridian community and leaders have worked hard and fought long to keep Meridian Naval Air Station open; to ensure it continues to be a viable and essential component of our national security network. Today we can celebrate success as the Pentagon agrees this installation is necessary and critical to our military. This is good news for Meridian and good news for Mississippi."

[Jackson Air Guard] "We were optimistic about the Jackson Air Guard going into the BRAC process, an optimism grounded on the service and mission and facilities of the 172nd in Jackson. We have seen that confidence realized today. I look forward to continuing to work with our local, state and national leaders in growing and improving this mission in the future."

[Columbus] Pickering shares the Golden Triangle Area with Congressman Roger Wicker and celebrates the news at the Columbus Air Force Base. "Many bases around the country saw losses today, but it speaks well of the facilities and missions and community of the Golden Triangle Area that Columbus Air Force Base is gaining during BRAC. I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Wicker in this area to serve these Mississippi military families."

The following statement was issued by Sen. Trent Lott Friday morning regarding the Pentagon's BRAC recommendations:

"I opposed the BRAC process at its initiation because it represents a cop-out by the Congress of its duties. I continue to dislike the process and the fact that any Mississippi facilities are on today's closure list. That being said, I'm breathing a sign of relief for those facilities that weren't on the list. Today's recommendations mainly impact Naval Station Pascagoula and the 186th Air Refueling Wing at Key Field, Meridian. Pascagoula is a new, unique, magnificent facility which unfortunately is not multi-missioned. I'm optimistic that as we go through this process, its huge value will be recognized, and other missions ultimately will be added to Pascagoula. The 186th Air Refueling Wing at Key Field, Meridian, is one of the highest ranked tanker facilities in the country, and I'm optimistic that the value of its mission will permit it to continue in Meridian.

"No state is more familiar with the BRAC process than Mississippi. Three times in the 1990s we saw Mississippi bases targeted by BRAC lists, and yet our state has never lost a base to BRAC. Mississippians understand that today's Pentagon recommendations are not an end, but merely the next step of an ongoing process of constantly promoting and protecting Mississippi's military installations. We expect to succeed again. Because, like John Stennis and Sonny Montgomery, we see an enduring role for Mississippi in America's national defense. Our bases are modern installations with irrefutable physical and technical attributes. Our people are patriotic. Our communities are supportive of our military, and we've contributed significantly to America's overall national security. I'm confident that our bases will again be judged as a critical component of America's security portfolio. I also note that this process is as much about realignment as it is about closure. In fact, there may be ways for Mississippi to benefit from certain changes to base missions, as we have in the past."

"Finally, we should note that during the past two weeks, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the Overseas Basing Commission each have noted that excess military installation capacity may not be as large as originally projected. To me, this is yet another example of how 20 years of BRAC have proven to be an ineffective method of addressing the excess capacity issue, failing to accurately articulate our defense posture and needs, failing to show significant cost savings, and causing communities nationwide an undue amount of consternation and cash expenditure.

"I'm hopeful that when this 2005 round is over, we'll immediately scrap the entire BRAC mechanism and return to having elected representatives in Congress, in conjunction with experts at the Pentagon, make the tough decisions about base realignment and closure. That's the way it was done for generations. It was fair, and it worked. It is Congress' job to make hard decisions, and we should no longer dodge our duty by leaving these difficult issues to an unelected commission."

A look at the next steps in the base-closure process.

- May through August: The commission will hold public hearings, conduct site visits, and collect data on each facility on the Pentagon's list to determine whether the Defense Department proposal was justified. The commission can vote to add facilities to the list, but it takes seven of the nine members to do so. A simple majority vote would suffice to remove bases from the list.

- September 8, 2005: The commission must forward its report of recommendations to the president.

- September 23, 2005: The president must accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety.

If they are accepted, Congress has 45 legislative days or until the end of its 2005 session to reject the recommendations in their entirety or they become final.

If they are disapproved, the commission has until October 20, 2005, to submit a revised report to the president.

The president has until November 7, 2005, to approve a revised report and send it to Congress.

- The Pentagon then has six years to close, relocate or downsize bases on the final list.