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The Times Herald May 14, 2005

Selfridge survives closings

Base faces small job loss as Pentagon shakes up facilities

By Joseph Deinlein

HARRISON TWP. - Though it will remain open, Macomb County's Selfridge Air National Guard Base could lose 216 military and civilian jobs under a Pentagon plan to consolidate military bases and personnel.

The Base Realignment and Closure list unveiled Friday calls for closing the U.S. Army Garrison-Selfridge, a 300-person unit that handles housing, recreation and family services for the base.

But through several unit and equipment transfers into and out of Selfridge, including 15 planes coming from the Michigan Air National Guard's 110th Fighter Wing in Battle Creek, the base could gain 84 jobs.

Selfridge has 329 active-duty military jobs and 1,308 civilian jobs. Another 3,280 members of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard train at the base, according to Peggy Mazzara, chairwoman of Macomb Community Action Committee, a local group that sought to keep the base open.

The Pentagon proposal, expected to save $6.4 million locally and $50 billion nationwide over the next two decades, must be presented to President Bush by September and approved by Congress within 45 days of Bush's OK. The realignments and closings could take several years.

During the first six years, the changes also would lead to the direct loss of 18 jobs in the area near Selfridge and would cost another 34 jobs indirectly, according to a Pentagon report accompanying the list of closings.

Despite the loss at the base, the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command at the Detroit Arsenal in Warren is poised to gain 647 jobs. The changes at Selfridge and Warren mean a net gain of 431 jobs in Macomb County.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, whose husband, Donald, used to be base commander at Selfridge, called the overall effect positive for the county since many communities nationwide stand to lose thousands of jobs under the plan.

"Some communities are having devastating news today," Miller said during a Friday news conference outside the base's main gate. "We, fortunately, are not one of those."

Recommendation

Aside from the Army garrison, Selfridge is proposed to lose the U.S. Air Force Reserve's 927th Air Refueling Wing to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

But the Air National Guard's 127th Wing at Selfridge is proposed to take over the 927th's eight KC-135 air-refueling tankers, plus four other tankers from Beale Air Force Base in California.

The plan also calls for the 127th to retire 15 F-16 fighters and eight C-130E cargo planes. In addition, Battle Creek's 110th Fighter Wing's 15 A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft could be transferred from the W.K. Kellogg Airport Air Guard Station to Selfridge. There are 318 jobs connected to the 110th in Battle Creek, but it is not clear how many of those would be transferred to Selfridge.

The exact number of jobs gained or lost from the other transfers also is unclear.

The Pentagon said it would streamline its operations at Selfridge by making the recommended changes there, the report said.

"Reorganizing the flying operations under one component will maximize operational effectiveness," the report said.

Defense policy expert John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, said the Air Force's goal is to save money by consolidating operations on fewer large bases.

"They have really moved around the heavy furniture," Pike said.

Reaction

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Detroit, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, withheld judgment on whether he would object to any job cuts at Michigan military bases.

"I will be carefully reviewing the analysis and the military rationale behind the Department of Defense recommendations," Levin said.

A task force assembled by Gov. Jennifer Granholm will meet Monday to try to understand why the Pentagon is choosing to close the Selfridge Army facility and how to challenge that decision, said John Burchett, director of Granholm's Washington office.

"We will have opportunities in the next months to make our case," Burchett said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing said she would prefer the A-10s stay in Battle Creek because they are important to the city's economy.

Stabenow also said she had doubts about the Pentagon's recommendation to close the Army garrison at Selfridge.

"I'll be asking tough questions about that," Stabenow said. "On the positive side, Selfridge remains open."


Copyright 2005, The Times Herald