10/22/04 — Senator speaks of base changes during Burr visit

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Senator speaks of base changes during Burr visit

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 22, 2004 2:01 PM

Next year will be "the mother of all military base closures," a U.S. senator predicted Thursday while in Goldsboro.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, believes a record number of bases will be shuttered or have their missions downgraded, following the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's 2005 review.

Richard Burr

News-Argus/Kaye Nesbit

Gloria Flowers greets U.S. Rep. Richard Burr during a campaign stop in Goldsboro Thursday. Burr is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

But the BRAC's effects will be lessened stateside do in part to a number of realignments overseas, he said.

Chambliss was at the Wayne Center with U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. About 30 people turned out for the campaign stop. Earlier, the two congressmen toured Seymour Johnson, spoke with base officials, reviewed construction projects, and met with the spouses of deployed personnel. Both said they were impressed with both the base's readiness and the community.

Bases in Europe have lost importance, following the end of the Cold War. The war in Iraq shows that the U.S. can mobilize its stateside bases, such as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and strike anywhere in the world, Chambliss said.

The Pentagon is preparing to bring many of those troops home, he said. For example, at least 25,000 of the 70,000 personnel in Germany will be reassigned to U.S. bases.

The BRAC Commission will consider U.S. bases' capacity for absorbing the additional personnel before it recommends changes statewide.

"So while this will be the mother of all base closures next year, it will be eased somewhat by bringing these servicemen back," Chambliss said.

Col. James Holmes, commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, told the congressmen "that he had been stationed all over the world and that he has never seen stronger community support than he has here," Chambliss said.

Burr said he had asked a spouse if morale had wavered at all during the war.

"She looked at me like 'Are you kidding?' and said, 'This is Goldsboro. It's like this all the time,'" Burr said.

Those remarks will help the base during the BRAC process because community support is one of the benchmarks, Chambliss said.

Currently, the different branches of the Armed Services are reviewing the lists of their bases that might be considered for closure or downsizing, the senator said. A preliminary list of recommended changes will be published in March 2005.

From March through September, other bases could be added to the list, he continued.

Meanwhile, the committee will be visiting areas where closures have been recommended, and some bases will likely be removed from consideration. A final list will be approved in September.

Congress will have the final decision, but it has to accept or reject the entire package, Chambliss said.

Chambliss is a first-term senator from Georgia who had previously served in the U.S. House with Burr. Chambliss won office with political ads that questioned the patriotism of former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, a triple amputee and decorated Vietnam veteran.

Burr is running against Democratic nominee Erskine Bowles for a seat that's being vacated by U.S. Sen. John Edwards.