FoxNews.com June 20, 2005
Some Bases Benefit From Closing Notice
DALLAS — Reacting to the Defense Department's preliminary decision to close 33 major military bases and downsize 29 others, communities across the country are spending the next four weeks lobbying the Pentagon to change the list.
Fairbanks, Alaska, had its regional hearing last week. Dallas is scheduled for this week. The hearings wrap up next month in Los Angeles.
Of all the places hoping to skate by the closure recommendations, El Paso, Texas, home to Fort Bliss and the Army's Fourth Calvary Combat Brigade and Patriot Battery, is not one of them. Instead, it looks to win big.
"It means hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic growth. It means homes being built, it means people buying cars," said Richard Dayoub, president of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.
Ft. Bliss is now set to double in size by gaining four patriot missile brigades, four brigade combat teams and the headquarters for the First Armored Division. That adds up to about 11,000 positions moving to the base.
Military analysts say El Paso's gain reflects the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure commission's long-term realignment of its military base structure.
John Pike, chief of Globalsecurity.org, said "lower land costs, lower costs of living, all of those factors combined" provide easy insight into the military's decision-making process.
"I think what we've seen in this round of BRAC is continuation of the long-term trend of the U.S. military to be moving out of the northeast and towards the southwest," Pike said.
For states like Texas, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, the shift translates into a boom in housing, construction and all other aspects of the local economy. Southern lawmakers add that it just makes sense in the War on Terror to move troops farther south, where training in hot weather better prepares U.S. soldiers for battle.
"We're a great place to recruit and retain our military and military families as well as to train our troops. So we think we have plenty of room to grow, not lose," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
"Not all the action is in the Middle East or in Asia or in Europe, we've got a big back door in Texas that needs protection, too, and that's another reason why we're ideally situated for these bases," Cornyn added.
Under the BRAC commission's current recommendations, the northeast would lose about 12,000 positions and the south would gain about 25,000 jobs.
In four previous base closure rounds since 1988, the original Pentagon list has pretty much been approved by Congress without much negotiation. In September, a final list will be presented to Congress and President Bush, who has to accept or reject the list in its entirety. Congress then has 45 days to reject the list, otherwise it's binding.
FOX News' Phil Keating contributed to this report.
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