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Vote could cut new depot jobs

August 25, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted Wednesday to reject the U.S. Department of Defense recommendation to close Red River Army Depot in Texas, which could cut in half the number of new jobs that were expected to come to Letterkenny Army Depot.

On May 13, the department released its list of recommendations for closing and realigning military bases around the country. Letterkenny, which lost hundreds of jobs as a result of a 1995 BRAC decision to realign the depot, ended up a winner this time, with U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster announcing the depot would gain 409 jobs.

On Wednesday, the commission unanimously affirmed the department's recommendations to consolidate tactical missile and some tactical work at Letterkenny, but the 9-0 vote not to close Red River means about 200 tactical vehicle jobs will stay in Texarkana, Texas, according to Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for Shuster.

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"The odds were against us before this process started, and if you told me then that Letterkenny would remain open and gain about 200 jobs, I would say we accomplished our two objectives keep Letterkenny open and increase its mission," Shuster said in a statement released by his office.

"As this process goes forward, and due to the fact that Letterkenny was rated number one nationwide for its tactical vehicle facility, I will continue working hard to establish Letterkenny's role in this mission," Shuster said.

Letterkenny is expected to eventually receive 117 tactical missile jobs from Red River and 38 missile jobs from the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, Calif., and a naval air station in that state, Mazzola said.

Twenty-seven tactical vehicle jobs are expected to be transferred to Letterkenny from Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois, he said. All of those numbers are approximate, Mazzola said.

Shuster will continue to focus on bringing tactical vehicle work to Letterkenny during the remainder of this BRAC round and in future BRAC rounds, Mazzola said.

"It's a step in the process. It's not finished yet. There are other votes to come," depot spokesman Alan Loessy said. "It looks like our tactical missile work is solidified," he said.

Loessy said the depot and its tenant activities, including the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Letterkenny Munitions Center, employ 2,022 government workers. An additional 711 contractor employees and military personnel work at the depot, he said.

The total of more than 2,700 is up about 200 since the May 13 announcement.

"We're really beefing up the Humvee reset mission," Loessy said, referring to repair and improvement work on the military vehicles. About 50 vehicles a week are being completed, he said.

"There's no particular impact today," Loessy said of Wednesday's commission vote, because implementing BRAC recommendations can take five or more years. The BRAC recommendations have to be forwarded to the president in September and then to Congress for a vote.

The Defense Department recommendation to close Red River included language to "Relocate the depot maintenance of Tactical Vehicles to Tobyhanna Army Depot (in Scranton, Pa.) and Letterkenny Depot," according to the BRAC Commission Web site.

"You always want more, but I still consider this a great win for Letterkenny," said state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland. "I'm just thrilled Letterkenny is remaining as it is and adding 200 jobs," said Kauffman, a member of Opportunity '05, a committee established three years ago to protect and expand Letterkenny.

"Col. William Guinn worked hard to make Letterkenny a streamlined operation and a viable part of the war on terror," Kauffman said of the depot commander.

Guinn's time at Letterkenny ends Tuesday when the depot holds a change of command ceremony. Col. Robert Swenson will be installed as the new commander.

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