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Santorum, Shuster set to defend Pa. bases

July 07, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Wednesday he hopes the Base Realignment and Closure Commission can be persuaded to bring more than the 409 new jobs the Department of Defense recommends be moved to Letterkenny Army Depot and reverse recommendations to close two other military bases in Pennsylvania.

Santorum, R-Pa., joined U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., in a meeting in Chambersburg with members of Opportunity '05, the committee that has orchestrated efforts to support the depot during the latest BRAC round.

On May 13, the Department of Defense recommended to the commission that Letterkenny's 2,500 jobs be spared and that workload from four other defense facilities be transferred to the depot.

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Santorum will address the commission today on proposed base closings and realignments in Pennsylvania, along with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell at a regional BRAC hearing in Washington, D.C. Most of the two hours set aside for Pennsylvania, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., will be devoted to those bases adversely affected by the Pentagon recommendations, with Shuster getting about 10 minutes to talk on Letterkenny.

"There is no chance that Letterkenny is going to lose any jobs," Santorum said after the meeting. "It is important the base continue to expand ... to survive any future BRAC that might be in the offing down the road."

BRAC Commission decisions in 1991, 1993 and 1995 hit Letterkenny hard, resulting in the loss of about 4,000 jobs, Shuster said.

The depot could gain more workload, and more jobs, if the commission can be persuaded to transfer more work to Letterkenny from Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas, Santorum said.

Red River is on the list of bases to be closed and Letterkenny is recommended to receive tactical missile and wheeled vehicle maintenance work currently done in Texas, he said.

The Pentagon recommendation to close Red River also came with a "general recommendation" that missile storage at Red River be transferred.

"If they are serviced here, they should be stored here," Santorum said of the missiles. He did not have an estimate on how many jobs that could add at Letterkenny.

"Red River is going to be making the case to keep their base open," Santorum said. "Red River was on the list before and it got off."

Supporters of that depot will address the commission on Monday at a regional hearing in San Antonio.

The Pentagon has ranked Letterkenny number one in tactical missile and wheeled vehicle maintenance, while "Red River was ranked number three," Shuster said.

"We have to make sure we continue through this process until the last vote is taken and the president signs it," Shuster said.

The BRAC recommendations are scheduled to go to the president Sept. 8 and to receive an up or down vote from Congress by Sept. 23, according to the Department of Defense Web site.

Santorum said he, Specter and Rendell will focus on saving military facilities scheduled to be closed, including the 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport and the Willow Grove Naval Air Station near Philadelphia.

"I think we have a shot of getting those bases off the list," he said.

A contingent of supporters was scheduled to leave Chambersburg by bus this morning to attend the hearing.

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