01/05/12 — A little foresight: Uncertainty in Washington means base towns have to be careful

View Archive

A little foresight: Uncertainty in Washington means base towns have to be careful

Politicians do not like to say "no" especially in an election year.

Republicans do not like to agree to anything that limits personal property rights -- well, most of the time anyway.

So, it is not surprising that Commissioner Jack Best's call to be careful about pecking away at the buffers meant to keep the base safety zones intact would be met with opposition.

The base said it was OK and the land had been grandfathered in when it was used in this capacity previously, some said, so what is the reason to deny the request?

The problem is, Best was right.

Today, President Barack Obama spoke of his new plan to cut back the military -- and that could mean a whole new round of looking at bases around the country.

And like it or not, Wayne County does not have an exclusive contract with the federal government that Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will stay here forever.

So, that means we have to have leaders who can look ahead, think ahead and realize that when little snips are taken out of safety zones and businesses in the flight path are grandfathered in, it sends a message.

If you want to know what encroachment can do to a base's relationship with a community, just take a close look at Virginia Beach.

Commissioner Best said what needed to be said at Tuesday's meeting. And in light of the rumblings in Washington, county leaders and others associated with military/community relations here had better get really serious about getting the work done and the policies solid that will keep this base right where it is, if not expanded.

Coming out safe in a Base Realignment and Closure process takes planning, work and foresight. It does not just happen because the county leadership are a bunch of nice guys. Just ask some of those who were key players in the last round and who worked for years to make sure this county was making the right choices to keep the base here.

If Seymour Johnson Air Force Base were to be curtailed or closed, billions of dollars would be lost here, and there would be a serious economic struggle that could threaten the livelihoods of thousands of county residents.

That is not worth making one or a couple of residents happy by approving their requests because it is easier than toeing the line.

This specific case is not the question.

What matters is that county leaders have their priorities straight and that they are keeping the bigger picture in mind.

That is why we put them there in the first place. And now is when we need them the most.

Published in Editorials on January 5, 2012 11:14 AM