Military Base Closings could affect Heartland

Military Base Closings could affect Heartland
By: Lauren Keith

The Defense Department recommend Friday morning which military bases should close. Scott Air Force Base in the Heartland region is on the list of possible closings. That base employs more than 14,000 people throughout southern Illinois and Missouri.

Many of them drive up to an hour one-way just to work at the Belleville base, and they've done that for years.

If Scott Air Force Base does find a spot on the chopping block, you can bet city and state leaders will pledge to fight the Defense Department's recommendation.

"Current arrangements, pretty much designed for the demands of the cold war, must give way to current demands of war against extremists and other evolving 21st century challenges," said Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld claims shutting down bases would save $50 billion, over the next two decades, and would trim the department's growing budget, especially during war time.

Still, Secretary Rumsfeld admits many communities will deeply feel economic pain, from his recommended cuts.

"The changes that will occur will affect a number of communities. Communities that have warmly embraced nearby military installations for years, indeed in some cases, for decades," said Rumsfeld.

If Scott Air Force Base closes--- that means 900 buildings will become vacant!

The base has become like a small town over the years; it encompasses more than 4,000 acres.

It's home to the Air Force Air Mobility command, the Army's Military Traffic Management command, and the Navy's Military Sea-lift command.

Secretary Rumsfeld claims he's aware of the hardship that may result in communities, much like Scott Air Force base.

"The department will take great care to work with these communities with the respect that they have earned and the government stands ready with economic assistance," said Rumsfeld.

Some economic leaders throughout southern Illinois and Missouri are hopeful Scott Air Force Base won't close.

Base officials say the federal government has put a lot of money into that base over the years, in expansions and in its mission.

But even that may not be enough to keep it and other bases from closing.

" Many local economies impacted by previous BRAC decisions successfully found ways to get positive results out of a situation that at first must have seemed dire, which of course, ifs a tribute to the ingenuity and resilience of the American people," said Rumsfeld.

Again, the Defense Department will announce Friday morning, which bases it recommends closing.

President Bush still has to sign off on it and in order to stop base closures, both the House and the Senate would have to vote it down.

Fort Campbell in Kentucky is not expected to be on the closing list.