Wednesday, March 16, 2005

BRAC Committee Announced

Committee Suspiciously Lacks a New Englander

So here's the list of people President Bush has nominated for the Base Realignment and Closure committee:

-James H. Bilbray of Nevada
-Philip Coyle of California
-Harold W. Gehman Jr. of Virginia
-James V. Hansen of Utah
-James T. Hill of Florida
-Claude M. Kicklighter of Georgia
-Samuel Knox Skinner of Illinois
-Sue Ellen Turner of Texas

Notice something? No, you're not just missing it. There really are people on this board from every part of the country except the Northeast. This is a serious blow, not just for Connecticut, but for the entire region:

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said she was "profoundly disappointed that a New Englander was not included.

"This disturbing decision compromises fairness and balance in a process that is vitally important to our nation's defense and in which the stakes for local communities are extraordinarily high, especially given the fact that New England has lost 50 percent of its military installations in the prior four rounds of base closings," she said.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine and the Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut, as well as Hanscom Air Force Base and Natick Labs in Massachusetts, have all been mentioned as possible targets for closure this year. (AP)

Well, maybe it's not as bad as it sounds. Thomas Sheridan, president of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, tried to put a positive spin on it:

“This will be political, but not as political as we might fear,” Sheridan said. “These are straight-up Americans that will make a decision based on what's best for the country, and the sub base will come out far ahead.” (Hamilton)

Oh, that's a relief. Base closures are never political. Look, I know that the committee is supposed to be impartial, but will the Georgian, the Virginian and the Californian really ignore the interests of their own states in favor of cold, distant Connecticut? That's a tall order, no matter how objective you're trying to be.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT2), whose re-election chances very much hinge on BRAC's decision, weighed in:

“It's a huge disappointment, because we feel the rest of the country has received representation on the BRAC and we have not,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District. “We're not sure how we can get a fair shake out of this panel.

“But we're going to do what we've been doing, lobbying the strength of our case,” Simmons said. “We'll continue to work the problem as hard as we can. These are the cards we've been dealt, so there's no sense crying about it.” (Hamilton)

Simmons doesn't sound very sure of himself, but he has very little reason to be at this stage. It's looking ever more likely that the deck has been stacked against Connecticut and New England in general, and that come decision time, we'll lose our bases.

I just can't stand it.

Hamilton, Robert A. "Bush Fills Out Base-Closure Commission President's Choices Exclude Northeast". New London Day 16 March 2005.
"Bush nominates commission on military base closures". Associated Press 16 March 2005.


stomv said...

It's informative to look at where these states lie on the map -- regionalism isn't the only observation worth noting.

Note that the states with BRAC representation are black.

Illinois is the most northern state. 6 of the 8 have very large (civilian) populations.

It seems like an unsavvy move on Bush's part, in that he's got, count 'em, 5 GOP senators in New England, and three of 'em are more moderate. It's just another paper cut for Senators Collins, Snowe, and Chaffee. Bush and the neo-cons continue to practically beg those three to jump ship, and IMHO eventually one will see the waters nicer where Jeffords is.

Genghis Conn said...

Great map, very telling.

Snowe and Chaffee are up for re-election in 2006, and BRAC could really hurt Snowe's chances. Chaffee seems like a tortured soul; how many of these sorts of things will it take for him to give up or jump ship?

Of course, the Republican in most danger is Simmons. It's as if the national party has thrown him an anchor (to use an inappropriate phrase).

stomv said...

Snowe will be fine -- if she is no longer a GOP senator from Maine, it's because she changed to a Dem senator from Maine.

Chaffee is in a bit more trouble. Apparently, he promised his dad that he'd stay a Republican... at least that was the talk over on a few months ago. Chaffee is in a very precarious position -- he might face a tough primary battle, and the Dems may be gunning to pick up the seat.

I'd love to see Simmons go down, and if the Dems can get a good candidate to run against him, I may travel in from Boston on the weekends to help campaign for the Dem. If the towns surrounding Canterbury can GOTV and the Lyme to Groton coast can at least break even, it seems like a Dem could grab the seat.

Genghis Conn said...

Simmons ran on the idea that he could get things done in D.C., and that only he had the experience necessary to "look out for us". Implicit in that argument was that only Simmons could save the sub base. People are going to remember.

The primary reason the Democrats lost to Simmons was that they ran a terrible candidate against him, and they didn't take advantage of the largest town in the district, Democratic-trending Enfield. If someone like current Enfield Mayor Pat Tallarita ran, he or she would have an interesting advantage.

Simmons has an office in Enfield, and marched in the 4th of July parade. I didn't see Sullivan or his staff here at all.