BRAC Debate Continues

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testified before Congress Monday about the reasons behind its list of recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure commission.

With a flair for the dramatic, Sen. Robert Byrd made his feelings clear about BRAC.

"This list does not pass inspection!" said Byrd, as he stomped on the Pentagon's report to the BRAC commission.

The Pentagon's recommended closure of an Air National Guard unit in his state of West Virginia. At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the same message.

"The Navy and DOD whacked us a good one on Friday, but we are not down. We're going to stay up. We're going to whack them back," said Union President Paul O'Connor.

Portsmouth is one of 33 major base closures and 29 realignments proposed by the Defense Department. If approved, the Pentagon says it would save taxpayers almost $49 billion over 20 years.

The list is now in the hands of the Base Realignment and Closure commission, which quizzed Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld about his choices.

"Some have asked why are we proposing closures in time of war. Answer is changes are essential in helping us win in this conflict," said Rumsfeld.

Commissioners pledge their deliberations will be devoid of politics and that their job is to be open, independent and fair. That won't stop politicians from lobbying them hard.

The Pentagon has made a major national security mistake and we are calling on the BRAC commissioners to correct that mistake and keep this yard open," said Rep. Thomas Allen, a Democrat from Maine.

One complaint commission members expressed Monday, that the Department of Defense has been slow to provide all the information needed to make decisions. It will continue to hold hearings and conduct site visits over the summer.