Last week the Base Realignment and Closure Commission made decisions affecting dozens of military facilities and the surrounding communities across the country.

One such decision brought a smile to the faces of Enid-area residents.

The commission voted unanimously on Friday to approve Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld?s recommendation to move the undergraduate pilot training mission from Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., and divide it among Vance, Columbus AFB in Mississippi and Laughlin AFB near Del Rio, Texas. Vance also will receive some of Moody?s Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training and Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals training for pilots and weapons systems officers.

In all, Vance is slated to pick up at least 95 new jobs (89 military and six civilian) along with 13 T-6 and 12 T-38 aircraft.

The commission has until Sept. 8 to submit its list of recommendations to President Bush. If the president OKs the BRAC commission?s list, which he has indicated he will do, the recommendations will be binding 45 legislative days after Bush sends them to Capitol Hill, unless Congress rejects the entire list. The president and Congress must accept or reject the list as a whole, there is no line-item veto power.

The BRAC commission did not simply rubber-stamp the recommendations first released by Rumsfeld in May. The nine-member group voted to reject the Pentagon?s recommendation to close Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, as well as the Naval submarine base in Groton, Conn., and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

Vance was spared the possibility of closure when it firstwas left off Rumsfeld?s initial list and was not added by the commission during its July hearing.

But the new planes and new people coming to Vance were not assured until the commission voted for the Moody realignment plan. Vance?s new assets looked to be in jeopardy Thursday when the commission considered keeping New Mexico?s Cannon Air Force Base open and moving the personnel and planes from Moody to Cannon.

Mike Cooper, chairman of Vance Development Authority and Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission and VDA consultants J.B. Davis and Stephen Moffitt spent much of Thursday and Friday working behind the scenes, trying to convince the commission to stick with Rumsfeld?s initial plan for Vance. Davis is a retired Air Force general and a member of the 1995 BRAC commission. Moffitt is a former aide to ex-Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles and served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Senate affairs.

Over the next six years Vance?s mission will expand through the movement of people and planes from Moody, as well as construction of an $8.7 million Armed Forces Reserve Center. The commission voted to close 53 state National Guard Armories and create seven reserve centers, construction of which is supposed to begin in 2007.

BRAC has been a long, slow, nerve-wracking process, but one which, in the end, has proven to be good news for Enid and northwest Oklahoma.

We owe a big debt of thanks to Cooper, the VDA, the OSMPC, our state?s congressional delegation and our delegation in the state Legislature.


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