Bases on block no surprise, gov. says

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gov. Haley Barbour said Monday the announcement of possiblemilitary base closures in Mississippi came as no surprise.

“We’ve been preparing for years, and one of my priorities asgovernor … is to protect our bases,” Barbour said.

The military’s Base Realignment and Closure commission last weekrecommended Naval Station Pascagoula, the U.S. Army Reserve Centerin Vicksburg and the Mississippi Army Ammunition plant forelimination and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and Key Field AirGuard Station in Meridian for realignments.

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But Barbour said none of the state’s bases are safe as thebase-closing process moves forward.

The governor said he does not expect the Vicksburg or Pascagoulabases to be removed from the list and the state has been preparingfor their closure.

The writing was on the wall, Barbour said of the Pascagoulabase, with two of the three Navy ships stationed theredecommissioned in recent years and the third set fordecommission.

Barbour said the base was less vital to the military because ofa recent shift to have the Coast Guard patrol more area alongcoastal areas, such as the Gulf Coast.

The governor explained that closing the Vicksburg Reserve basewould fit within a nationwide effort to reduce the number ofReserve bases.

Barbour said two-thirds of all reductions of military personnelin Mississippi would be at Keesler Air Force Base.

“The loss of some jobs at Keesler is apparently part of anationwide effort to cut down on medical staff,” Barbour said.

Barbour said he hopes many of those medical employees would beable to work in other jobs in their field still within thestate.

“Because we have such a nursing shortage in Mississippi, many ofthose jobs will be soaked up,” Barbour said.