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Targeted towns rally to keep bases

Lawmakers and residents in towns with military bases targeted for closure promised Friday to fight to move off the list, saying their communities would be crippled and national security would be damaged.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Lawmakers and residents in towns with military bases targeted for closure promised Friday to fight to get off the list, saying their communities would be crippled and national security would be damaged. “The battle starts today,” one mayor said.

New Mexico, for example, stands to lose Cannon Air Force Base, which would cost the area 2,385 military jobs and 384 civilian jobs, according to the Pentagon’s list released Friday.

That doesn’t include costs to the surrounding communities. A separate study last year said closing Cannon would cost Curry County alone $98 million annually.

“It’ll kill Clovis,” said Linda Hanks, manager of a Dairy Queen in nearby Clovis, N.M. “We don’t have any industry here. We rely on the base. Probably 75 percent of our business comes from the base. That’s not only us, it’s every business in town.”

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., condemned the proposal to close Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, calling it “a mistake.”

“Otis is the number one base for homeland defense on the entire East Coast. ... It simply makes no sense to close Otis in the post 9/11 world.”

Ellsworth reaction
South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base, home to intercontinental missiles and long-range bombers during its 63-year history, was also among the 150 military installations from Maine to Hawaii listed for the first round of base closures in a decade.

The bases are an important, often crucial, source of jobs, and communities and politicians have spent months fiercely lobbying for their home stations.

Republican freshman Sen. John Thune called the Pentagon “flat wrong” about Ellsworth, and he vowed to help lead the fight in the Senate to delay the entire round of closures. “We will continue to keep Ellsworth open,” Thune said.

An Air Force study last year estimated Ellsworth’s annual economic impact in the state at $278 million, including its $161 million annual payroll.

N.J. base to become battle
Fort Monmouth in New Jersey would lose all its 5,272 military and civilian jobs, according to the Pentagon list.

An angry Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., vowed to “fight like hell to change it. I’m not about to let the Pentagon’s error put the fort and the soldiers it serves in harm’s way.”

Eatontown Mayor Gerry Tarantolo said he had been dreading such a decision.

“It’s a major disappointment. I think it’s a poor decision. But obviously this is just the beginning of the fight,” he said. “The battle starts today.”

In Connecticut, the proposed closures would affect nearly 8,600 jobs, mostly at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., called the recommendation “irrational and irresponsible.”

“It insults our history and endangers our future,” he said.

The base — which began construction in 1872 as the Navy’s first submarine base — is homeport to 18 attack submarines and home of the Naval Submarine School, three submarine squadrons staffs and other support facilities.