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Mississippi on guard for base closures

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
May 8, 2004
A move to delay the 2005 round of military base closures was welcomed Friday, but officials said preparations to defend bases in Mississippi would not abate.
Next Wednesday, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee will take up the 2005 defense authorization bill, which contains an amendment adopted by a subcommittee calling for a two-year delay in the base realignment and closure process.
Under the current process, the Defense Department will compile a list of bases to be closed next spring and by September 2005 submit the list to President Bush. He must then either approve it or reject it without making specific changes.
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., was reported to be working aggressively with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others to at least delay BRAC. So far, however, the Bush administration has remained steadfast in its intent to close about 25 percent of U.S. military bases and design a new strategy for training military personnel and fighting wars.
Lott has suggested U.S. bases overseas should be closed before any closings occur on domestic soil.
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., a member of Armed Services, has long opposed base closures as damaging to national defense and potentially devastating to Mississippi communities in which military installations are located.
For the first time, National Guard units are also included in BRAC.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., described adoption of the amendment to postpone BRAC until 2007 as a positive step.
Pickering, breaking with the administration to become one of the first Republican sponsors of the measure, praised the members of the committee for taking what he called a bold step. He noted that moving the measure from a stand-alone bill into the text of the defense authorization bill makes passage of the postponement much more likely.
The delay measure (HR 4023) has been incorporated into the FY05 Defense Authorization Bill (HR 4200). If passed by the full Armed Services Committee, the bill would move to the full House of Representatives.