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BRAC Valley base remains off closing list



Published: Wed, July 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The commission must submit its recommendations to the president by Sept. 8.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Youngstown Air Reserve Station jumped another -- and what could be its final -- hurdle in remaining open when it wasn't added by a federal commission to a list of bases recommended for closure and downsizing.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission on Tuesday took the first of two votes to add military bases to a closure and downsizing list recommended by the U.S. Department of Defense in May.

Given the commission's interpretation of the rules governing the addition of military bases to the list originally proposed by the DOD, it is now too late to add the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, located in Vienna, to the closure list, said Reid Dulberger.

Dulberger, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber's executive vice president, is co-chairman of Operation: Save Our Airbase Reservists, a local group leading the charge to keep the Vienna base open.

"The BRAC process is moving inexorably towards its conclusion without touching the Youngstown Air Reserve Station," he said. "... Based on the rules adopted by the BRAC commission, we are already safe."

Final barrier

The only obstacle still in the local base's way is Congress' agreeing to extend the commission's Sept. 8 deadline to submit recommendations to President Bush. Dulberger said that "is very, very unlikely to happen" because Congress has shown no interest in extending that deadline.

It takes a vote of seven of the nine BRAC commissioners to overturn a recommendation from the DOD to close a base.

The president can't make changes to the list he'll receive Sept. 8, and can only approve it or reject it. If the president rejects the list, the BRAC commission has until Oct. 20 to give him a revised list.

On May 13, the DOD released its recommendation of what should be done with the nation's 425 military facilities.

The DOD recommended the Vienna base, the home of the 910th Airlift Wing, remain open. Also, the DOD recommends the base in 2007 add a 142-member aeromedical evacuation squadron, currently located at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station. The DOD recommended the Pittsburgh base be closed.

The Vienna base is the fifth-largest employer in the Mahoning Valley with 2,400 workers. The base estimates it puts more than $120 million into the local economy and has created more than 700 off-base jobs.

skolnick@vindy.com




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