By Mary Clare Jalonick: The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The commission reviewing the Pentagon’s recommended base closings will travel to 16 cities this summer to hear from communities potentially affected.
Between June 7 and July 14, commissioners will hold hearings in Salt Lake City; St. Louis; Dallas; Atlanta; Boston; Los Angeles; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; Rapid City, S.D.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Clovis, N.M.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Charlotte, N.C.; Baltimore; San Antonio and New Orleans.
The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, appointed by President Bush, can change the Pentagon list before it is submitted to the White House and Congress this fall.
“The regional hearings will provide the primary means for communities to educate the commissioners and their staff on their disagreements with the DOD base recommendations,” said former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi, chairman of the commission.
Commissioner Lloyd Warren Newton, a retired Air Force general, will tour New Jersey’s Fort Monmouth, members of the New Jersey delegation said Thursday.
The Pentagon tried to close Fort Monmouth in 1988 and 1993, but an intense lobbying effort by congressional, state and local officials kept the post open.
Members of the South Dakota delegation said Thursday that three commissioners — former Democratic Rep. James H. Bilbray of Nevada, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Philip Coyle and former Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner — would visit Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City on the same day as the South Dakota hearing.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth, D-S.D., said the Thursday announcement “gives us some lead time” to prepare for the visit and craft the best argument for saving Ellsworth, which the Pentagon recommended for closure.
“It’s a matter of now really putting scrutiny on their data and analysis,” she said.
North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan said his state would use the Grand Forks hearing to lobby for additional missions for Grand Forks Air Force base, which would lose its air tanker mission and most of its personnel.
“We would like to add some additional missions and minimize the impact,” Dorgan said.
Gov. George Pataki of New York said Thursday that he would testify at the Buffalo hearing in an effort to spare Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station from closure.
“We fought successfully back in 1995 during the last BRAC round to save the Niagara Air Reserve Station from being closed, and we’re going to fight hard to save it again,” he said.