The BRAC Commission recommended closing Ellsworth Air Force Base, SD. -- a recommendation that "could result in a maximum potential reduction of 6,768 jobs (3,852 direct jobs and 2,916 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Rapid City, SD, Metropolitan Statistical economic area, which is 8.5 percent of economic area employment".
(If you aren't familiar with the BRAC Commission, check out Base Realignment and Closure 2005)
Senator Thune is threatening not to support President Bush's nominee for Ambassador to the UN unless Ellsworth AFB is saved from closure.
Senator John Thune
I guess he's doing what he has to do for the folks in South Dakota (specifically, the Rapid City metropolitan area), but it comes across as playing politics with national security.
Look, if he promised his constituents that he could keep Ellsworth open, then he, at best, over-reached. At worst, he was foolishly pandering for votes. Anyone remotely familiar with the BRAC process knows better than to make promises.
Maybe President Bush can help him out, but I doubt it will be by keeping Ellsworth AFB open. The BRAC is an "all or nothing" proposition. The commission's recommendations are accepted or rejected in their entirety. First, the President accepts or rejects. If he accepts the recommendations, it then goes to Congress which will have 45 legislative days to accept or reject the recommendations -- in their entirety.
Ellsworth AFB's continued operation is a big deal for South Dakota, but not for the rest of the nation. It's not like the B-1 Bombers stationed there would be mothballed. The recommendation (included at the end of this post) is to move the assets to Dyess AFB.
If Senator Thune wants to argue the merits of keeping Ellsworth AFB open based on national security, then he is up against some pretty stiff competition.
Thune's military experience: 0. Thune's national security experience: near zero.
BRAC Commission's military and national security experience:
- Chairman Anthony J. Principi: 1967 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, combat in Vietnam, Navy JAG officer, legislative counsel for the Department of the Navy, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
- Former Congressman James H. Bilbray was a member of the Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1955 to 1963.
- Mr. Philip Coyle is a Senior Advisor to the Center for Defense Information. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director of Operational Test and Evaluation at the Department of Defense.
- Admiral Harold W. Gehman, Jr., USN (Ret.) served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for over 35 years. His last assignment was as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic and as the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Joint Forces Command.
- Former Congressman James V. Hansen was a member of the Armed Services Committee. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to 1955.
- General James T. Hill, USA (Ret.) served in the U.S. Army for 36 years. His last assignment was as Combatant Commander of the U.S. Southern Command.
- General Lloyd Warren Newton, USA (Ret.) served in the U.S. Air Force for 34 years. His last assignment was as the Commander of Air Education and Training Command.
- Samuel Knox Skinner served as Chief of Staff and as Secretary of Transportation for President George H. W. Bush. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1960 to 1968.
- Brigadier General Sue Ellen Turner, USAF (Ret.) is a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission. She served in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years, most recently as the director of nursing services in the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General at Bolling Air Force Base.
These members didn't make their recommendations on a whim. They made them based on years of experience and careful study of the national security needs of this country. They made them in good faith and they've got nothing to hide. For goodness sake, just go to the BRAC website.
But you wouldn't know that from some of Thune's press releases. Take this one for example:
THUNE, SNOWE DEMAND DOD RELEASE DOCUMENTATION SURROUNDING BRAC DECISIONS - Senators Introduce Bill to Shut Down BRAC if DoD does not Comply
"In this country, we simply do not allow our government to make decisions in the dark that profoundly impact so many citizens’ lives," said Snowe. "We cannot allow the Department of Defense to continue to withhold the data, methodology, and assumptions it used to arrive at its BRAC recommendations. DoD has not even provided this information to the BRAC Commissioners, who are charged with reviewing the recommendations. This is an issue of basic fairness and transparency – we call on DoD to live up to its responsibilities and shed light on its BRAC decision-making process."
"Too much is at stake for the Defense Department to withhold valuable information," said Thune. "Communities cannot adequately defend their bases without knowing how or why the Pentagon made its recommendations. The Department of Defense has a responsibility to shed light on the data, methodology, and assumptions it used. The BRAC process cannot move forward if the Pentagon fails to meet its basic responsibility to share information."
Great! He's teamed up with that conservative stalwart, Olympia Snowe. Smooth move. If Thune and Snowe are so concerned about transparency of BRAC proceedings, why weren't they making this an issue months earlier? Why didn't Thune make this one of his campaign issues? Why did he wait until the BRAC commission released its recommendations?
How much more transparent does the BRAC commission need to be? Has Senator Thune not seen the hundreds of megabytes of information on their website, Base Realignment and Closure 2005?
If he wants to cross sabers with President Bush, so be it. I don't see any good that can come from it.
For another take on this, see R. Andrew Newman's excellent piece, Not Another Maverick.
Citizens Against Government Waste Names Sen. John Thune Porker of the Month
In a thinly-veiled attempt to punish the Bush administration for not compromising the integrity of the BRAC process, Sen. Thune threatened to reverse his decision on ambassador to the United Nations nominee John Bolton, whom he had vocally supported in the past. Sen. Thune has also signaled that he will vote against the administration on the upcoming CAFTA-DR free trade agreement and legislation regarding importation of drugs from Canada.
But Sen. Thune's sabotage campaign is completely unnecessary to ensure the economic survival of his constituents, according to CAGW. A May 2005 Government Accountability Office report showed that towns affected by base closings continue to recover and fare well compared to average rates for unemployment and income growth. Creative planning from local leaders has helped recover 90 percent of the civilian jobs lost during the past four rounds of base closings.
For throwing a congressional tantrum instead of seeking to understand Pentagon decisions, for impeding military transformation and placing parochial interests above the interests of taxpayers and national security, for threatening to alter votes based on political grudges, and for failing to show proper leadership for constituents that could soon face a difficult period of adjustment, CAGW names Sen. John Thune its Porker of the Month for June 2005.
Below is the BRAC Commission's recommendation concerning Ellsworth AFB:
Ellsworth Air Force Base, SD and Dyess Air Force Base, TX
Recommendation: Close Ellsworth Air Force Base, SD. The 24 B-1 aircraft assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing will be distributed to the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, TX. Realign Dyess Air Force Base, TX. The C-130 aircraft assigned to the 317th Airlift Group will be distributed to the active duty 314th Airlift Wing (22 aircraft) and Air National Guard 189th Airlift Wing (two aircraft), Little Rock Air Force Base, AR; the 176th Wing (ANG), Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK (four aircraft); and the 302d Airlift Wing (AFR), Peterson Air Force Base, CO (four aircraft). Peterson Air Force Base will have an active duty/Air Force Reserve association in the C-130 mission. Elmendorf Air Force Base will have an active duty/Air National Guard association in the C-130 mission.
Justification: This recommendation consolidates the B-1 fleet at one installation to achieve operational efficiencies. Ellsworth (39) ranked lower in military value for the bomber mission than Dyess (20). To create an efficient, single-mission operation at Dyess, the Air Force realigned the tenant C-130s from Dyess to other Air Force installations. The majority of these aircraft went to Little Rock (17-airlift), which enables consolidation of the active duty C-130 fleet into one stateside location at Little Rock, and robusts the Air National Guard squadron to facilitate an active duty association with the Guard unit. The other C-130s at Dyess were distributed to Elmendorf (51-airlift) and Peterson (30-airlift) to facilitate active duty associations with the Guard and Reserve units at these installations.
Payback: The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation is $299.1M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period is a savings of $316.4M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation are $161.3M, with a payback expected in one year. The net present value of the cost and savings to the Department over 20 years is a savings of $1,853.3M.
Economic Impact on Communities: Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 6,768 jobs (3,852 direct jobs and 2,916 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Rapid City, SD, Metropolitan Statistical economic area, which is 8.5 percent of economic area employment. The aggregate economic impact of all recommended actions on this economic region of influence was considered and is at Appendix B of Volume I.
Community Infrastructure Assessment: A review of community attributes indicates no issues regarding the ability of the infrastructure of the communities to support missions, forces, and personnel. There are no known community infrastructure impediments to implementation of all recommendations affecting the installations in this recommendation.
Environmental Impact: There are potential impacts to air quality; cultural, archeological, or tribal resources; land use constraints or sensitive resource areas; noise; waste management; water resources; and wetlands that may need to be considered during the implementation of this recommendation. There are no anticipated impacts to dredging; marine mammals, resources, or sanctuaries; or threatened and endangered species or critical habitat. Impacts of costs include $3.2M in costs for environmental compliance and waste management. These costs were included in the payback calculation. There are no anticipated impacts to the costs of environmental restoration. The aggregate environmental impact of all recommended BRAC actions affecting the installations in this recommendation have been reviewed. There are no known environmental impediments to the implementation of this recommendation.