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VIENNA AIR BASE Official hopes to have data this week



Published: Thu, June 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Youngstown base supporters won't testify in front of the closure commission.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown Air Reserve Station supporters say they hope to finally get needed data on the local base and other military facilities by Saturday.

Reid Dulberger, co-chairman of a local organization devoted to keeping the reserve station open, said the information is vital to protecting the facility.

The U.S. Department of Defense recommended May 13 not only that the Youngstown Air Reserve Station remain open, but also that it add an aeromedical evacuation squadron in 2007.

The squadron would have eight full-time civilian employees and 134 part-time reservists. The base currently employs about 2,400 people.

Operation: Save Our Airbase Reservists, the support organization for the Vienna-based reserve station, wants to review information showing specifically the hows, whys and accuracy of the DOD's recommendations, Dulberger said.

The information was expected to be released shortly after the May 13 announcement, said Dulberger, the Regional Chamber's executive vice president. The only information available from the DOD to date is the evaluation system it used as part of its recommendations to the Base Realignment and Closure commission.

"The law requires the data be made available, but it doesn't say when," Dulberger said. "What we've looked at doesn't go into the nitty-gritty details. We've been waiting for any additional bits of information."

Aide had early access

The Department of Defense is making additional data available now to those with the proper security clearance.

Dean Thomas, a legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, has "interim secret clearance," and is in the process of getting "top secret clearance" from the DOD, according to the congressman's office.

Thomas is expected to view the information shortly, but he can't share it with anyone who doesn't have the proper clearance, Dulberger said. Thomas received the clearance because Ryan, D-17th, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Dulberger said.

The defense department said the BRAC commission will have additional information Saturday on its Web site, Dulberger said. But depending on what is released, it could be a few days before local supporters can fully understand it, he said.

"It's been a lot harder than we anticipated" to get the information, he said.

"We're spending a lot of time and energy, and we're not getting far. It's hard for every community, particularly those on the list. They have an uphill battle, and they're trying to put together credible responses without all the information."

The BRAC commission is already visiting military bases on the department's list for closure or realignment, Dulberger said. Also, the commission will hold the first of 16 regional hearings Monday to listen to testimony from those wanting to get off the closure list.

The DOD recommended closing four of the 10 air reserve stations in the country with C-130s, the airplanes used at the Vienna facility. Among those identified are bases in Pittsburgh and Niagara Falls. The unit slated to come to Youngstown, the home of the 910th Airlift Wing, is based in Pittsburgh.

Important dates

Seven of the nine commission members must vote to overturn the department's recommendation on closure or realignment.

The commission will make recommendations on bases to President Bush by Sept. 8. Bush has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the entire list. If he rejects the list, the commission has until Oct. 20 to send a revised list. Bush has until Nov. 7 to give the revised list to Congress or the process dies.

Ohio was allotted two hours to testify at the June 27 BRAC hearing in Buffalo, N.Y.

With a Mansfield base on the chopping block, and DOD recommendations to make significant cuts to military facilities in Springfield and Cleveland, Dulberger is sure supporters of the Vienna base won't be permitted to testify in front of the commission.

Operation: SOAR officials will attend the hearing and pay particularly close attention to testimony from those who want to keep the Niagara Falls base open, he said.

Local base supporters also want to hear testimony from those who want to keep the Pittsburgh station open. BRAC officials haven't decided where those from Pennsylvania will testify, but Dulberger said it appears they'll be at the July 8 hearing in Baltimore. If so, Operation: SOAR officials will be there as well, he said.

"It is critical we hear testimony from Niagara Falls and Pittsburgh," Dulberger said.

That's because the evaluation system the defense department used as part of its recommendations gave Youngstown 40.09 points, with Niagara Falls and Pittsburgh less than half a point behind the local station, he said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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