Politics Bombs the Pentagon

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Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota has been pulled back from the grave by the base closing commission, thwarting Pentagon plans to consolidate the Air Force's small B-1 bomber fleet at a single air base. South Dakota pols portrayed closing Ellsworth as catastrophic for the state, with 4,000 jobs at risk.

Guess it isn't quite true that things are different when America is a nation at war.

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  1. Well, I don’t know much about South Dakota, but there were some crazy proclamations that came out of the “saving” of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in NH/ME. My favorite:

    “I’m so proud of the work force at Kittery. Clearly it’s the men and women of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that convinced the commission that we would lose an irreplaceable national treasure if the yard were closed.” _ Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. (emphasis mine)

  2. “Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota has been pulled back from the grave by the base closing commission, thwarting Pentagon plans to consolidate the Air Force’s small B-1 bomber fleet at a single air base. South Dakota pols portrayed closing Ellsworth as catastrophic for the state, with 4,000 jobs at risk.”

    *Gasps* God forbid people get knocked off the public teet from their useless jobs and are forced to compete in the market!!!

  3. The panel voted July 19 to add several military installations to a list being considered for closure during hearings in Washington. DoD had recommended one of those bases, Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, for realignment, but not closure.

    Hey wait a second, that’s my home town!

  4. “Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota has been pulled back from the grave by the base closing commission, thwarting Pentagon plans to consolidate the Air Force’s small B-1 bomber fleet at a single air base. South Dakota pols portrayed closing Ellsworth as catastrophic for the state, with 4,000 jobs at risk.”

    *Gasps* God forbid people get knocked off the public teet from their useless jobs and are forced to compete in the market!!!

  5. The panel voted July 19 to add several military installations to a list being considered for closure during hearings in Washington. DoD had recommended one of those bases, Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine, for realignment, but not closure.

    Hey, wait just a second, that’s my home town!

  6. Sorry about this, everyone:

    REMINDER: CHICAGO H&R HAPPY HOUR
    Tomorrow night, 7:30 p.m. at Goose Island
    1800 N Clybourn
    For anyone who missed the original discussion (ChicagoTom?)…No need to RSVP, just show up.

  7. Syd,

    Really? You’re from Brunswick?
    I spent a year there at Bowdoin. Been back recently? I like the new microbrewery over by the river.

  8. This base had to stay open because that was one of John Thune’s campaign promises. It’s the price the Republican party was willing to pay to get rid of Tom Daschle.

    Remember that the next time a Republican complains about politicizing national security.

  9. The biggest and only real threat to military bases inside the United States is terrorism. So what do we do? Listen to a bunch of bean counters and save a few bucks at the cost of consolidating all of our forces in a few easily targetable bases. For example, had Ellsworth closed, all of the country’s B1 bombers would have been concentraited at one AFB in Texas. All of the nation’s B2 bombers live in one base in Missouri, nearly all of its B52s at one base in Louisianna. One suitcase nuke set off at Fort Hood, Texas could destroy 1/3rd of the Army’s combat power (assumeing both divisions assigned there are home at the time). There were reasons beyond just pork and politics to have this many bases. The main reason being the desireability of dispersing forces. That has been totally lost in the bean counter’s quest to save money at the price of security.

  10. While the politicos are harping about jobs and local prestige, I’ve seen nothing to indicate that the BRAC Commission itself is basing its decisions on anything but military necessity and cost benefits. The fact the Susan Collins is talking about her national treasure doesn’t mean that was the motivation for the BRAC to keep it open.

    In some cases, such as the reversal of the Pentagon’s recommendation to close the submarine base in Connecticut, keeping the base open is actually cheaper than reconstructing its facilities elsewhere. It’s disappointing how often Reason writers let their knees jerk, and assume the narrative they like.

    Is it just me, or is the BRAC overturning the Pentagon a lot more this time than in previous rounds? I’m not sure why, buy the Pentagon seems to have really done a lousy job. Some of its recommendations, like closing the submarine base next door to Electric Boat, are nonsensical.

  11. I’d say close ’em all & let Cheney & the energy companies pay for their adventures out of pocket (with no tax deductions). But since that’s never going to happen — until the Great Bleeding begins, at least — I’d much rather have the tax money taken from me used to prop up an economy in the United States rather than dumped by the hundreds of billions on a failed Islamic state on the other side of the planet. Lesser of two evils, etc.

  12. Same story with Groton Sub Base here in Connecticut. They’re talking about the Nat’l Guard unit here as well.
    I wonder if any of the proposed base closings will actually occur.

  13. When’s the last time a military base actually for-real closed in the US?

  14. It’s not only nukes. Simple bioweapons, or even simply poisioning the water supply, can render a unit (and it’s weapons in most cases) unfit (if not dead, the fear factor can cause more damage). I thought part of the reason for multiple bases was the dispersal factor. We’re not (well, most of us aren’t) worried about a missile strike, but as you point out the tactics haven’t changed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bases that can’t be closed, but closing to save money while ignoring other things is stupid. How much of that money saved with closing could have been saved from a missile defense system that doesn’t work, or a no-bid overpriced contract in a quagmire?

  15. John-

    You make a good point about dispersal and terrorism. However, some of the concentration involves relocating things away from the DC area. Having 5 different offices in the DC suburbs (expensive rented locations), say, seems riskier than having 2 different locations, each a long drive from DC in opposite directions (and on land that’s either cheapter to rent or already federally owned).

    So it all depends on the context. In some cases the bean counters are 100% right.

  16. The fact the Susan Collins is talking about her national treasure doesn’t mean that was the motivation for the BRAC to keep it open.

    1) Calling any military base a “irreplaceable national treasure” is an exercise in foolish rhetoric bordering on absurd.

    2) I’m familiar enough with the PNS, including having had family members work there, to believe it should have been shut down 20 years ago. The only reason it wasn’t is because it wouldn’t have been politically expedient to close both Pease AFB and PNS, so only Pease got the axe.

  17. Eric the .5b,

    There were two previous rounds of base closings in the 1990s. Real, actual US military bases were closed each time.

  18. Eric the .5b

    A bunch of bases were closed for real in 1996. The site of Naval Training Center Orlando is now being developed as a housing and commercial development.

    All that is left of McCoy AFB is the MCO on the baggage tags of passengers bound for Orlando. The Navy used part of the base after it closed in 1974 as an annex to the NTC. The NTC itself occupied the site of the Orlando AFB which had closed in the early 60s. The only military use of the origial McCoy base is a couple of building used by a couple of Florida National Guard battallions.

  19. I’m serious. I’m trying to remember the last time a military base was actually shuttered/sold/whatever, as opposed to being the center of a media fooferal about its planned closing and seemingly inevitably being saved from closing..

  20. Ah, I crosspost Isaac… Thanks, though.

    1996? Sheesh.

  21. At one time NTC Orlando had as many employees as Disney and Martin Marrietta.

    After the closure of some small Supply Command or other (I’m not sure of the details, but I think it’s a Surplus Property disposal agency or something) in this round there will be no USN presence in Orlando at all. Except recruiters of course.

  22. That is Disney’s and Martin’s operations in Orlando.

  23. One suitcase nuke set off at Fort Hood, Texas could destroy 1/3rd of the Army’s combat power (assumeing both divisions assigned there are home at the time).

    Believe it or not, there are a lot of targets higher up on the terrists’ hit list than Fort Hood Texas. If the terrists have so many suitcase nukes AND successfully gotten them into the country in working condition to the point where they could waste one on some stupid planes, most of America would have been fried already and the planes would be useless junk leftover from a once powerful nation.

    Planes…

  24. I say close them all and do away with this standing army thing. It has been way, waaaaaayyy, longer than the permissible three years. If they want an Army, Congressmen will have to grow a pair and declare war (declaring war on phantoms, not applicable)!

  25. For example, had Ellsworth closed, all of the country’s B1 bombers would have been concentraited at one AFB in Texas.

    Your dispersal point is valid, but the key here is that we’re talking about B1 bombers. Which were obsolete the day they went into service. I suppose the thinking is that as long as we spent the money we might as well keep them around, but we shouldn’t keep open extra bases for them.

  26. A more accurate timeline on the NTC Orlando closure.

    The Orlando AFB, Orlando, Fla. closed in 1967, and was transferred to USN as Naval Training Center.

    NTC closed with basic training ending in 1994, Recruit Training Center Orlando closed in March 1995 and the final Naval Nuclear Power Training Command class graduated in December 1998. Base closure was in April 1999.

    As you can see it takes a while to close a base. Also during the cold war the military grew so while a base may become obsolete for one service the property was usually just transferred to another.

  27. Long Beach Naval Station closed for good in 1995 (and was converted to a commercial shipping port in ’96). LB Naval Shipyard, which was next door to LBNS was closed in 1996 and converted to a commercial shipyard.

    Also at LBNS was the Naval/Marine Corps Reserve center which was technically considered it’s own “base/facility”, even though it was a single building at the corner of LBNS.

    So, that’s 3 I can think of that were closed right off the top of my head.

  28. Also at the same time that NTC Orlando was closed NTC San Diego was closed, leaving only NTC Great Lakes open. There had been something of a contest as to which two of the three would be closed and some credit Dan Rostenkowski’s influence in saving Great Lakes, the oldest and possibly least suitable facility. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.:)

  29. I erred, the Orlando facility to be closed in this round is The Defense Finance and Accounting Service which handles payroll and stuff for several Army and Air Force bases around the country. That function will presumably be consolidated with another facility. I don’t know if the Navy Surplus Property Depot is still here or not.

  30. Eric the .5b,

    Bergstrom AFB in southeast Austin was closed and reconstituted about 5 years ago as Austin International Airport.

  31. It’s good to know that they really do occasionally get closed.

  32. Mare Island Naval Station was also closed in the late 1990’s, to the great distress of Vallejo and other East Bay communities in California. Fortunately, Representative Miller was able to convince the US Forest Service to relocate its regional headquarters from San Francisco to Mare Island, so the area still remains a headquarters for bloated, expensive and underproductive government bureaucracy.

  33. Eric,
    El Toro Marine Base got closed last decade as well. Either that or those darn aliens in ID4 destroyed it. I forget which.

  34. Syd,

    Really? You’re from Brunswick?
    I spent a year there at Bowdoin. Been back recently? I like the new microbrewery over by the river.

    Comment by: linguist at August 26, 2005 01:42 PM

    I was born in Bath and spent my high school and early high school years in Brunswick. I lived across the highway from the entrance to the Naval Air Station and used to watch the planes take off. Altogether, that was my home town for 10 years. I used to visit there when I was a kid. The Bath Iron Works is also adversely affected, and my sister works there.

    It’s amazing how your abstract point of view changes when you can relate with them personally. Susan Collins, help!!!

  35. high school and early high school years in Brunswick.
    High School and early college years. I got my bachelors and Masters from the University of Maine.

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