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Lawmakers Want To Keep State's Military Bases Off Chopping Block

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SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — The Pentagon plans to close some defense facilities next year, claiming the military is much smaller than it was a decade ago, but state leaders want to keep ours off the chopping block.

Military installations contribute more than $18 billion to the state's economy. State leaders are concerned about losing them, so they are forming a new committee to help North Carolina's bases stay put.

"We need to make sure we do everything in our power to make them welcome and let them know that they're needed here," said Rep. Keith Williams, R-Onslow.

One of the military bases that could be on the chopping block is

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

. With a workforce of 15,000, it is North Carolina's smallest and most vulnerable.

"One of the major reasons is from an Air Force standpoint is it is a one-mission unit -- the F15-E Strike Eagle," said Ret. Lt. Gen. Robert Springer.

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is on a preliminary list of alleged base closings that is being circulated on the Internet. However, the U.S. Department of Defense said it is a hoax.

"There are no base closure lists out there period -- that are valid," Springer said.

Springer said it is too early to speculate which bases will make the list, but he is concerned that objections to a new Navy landing field in Washington County sends the wrong message.

"It's very hard to have a commission that says, 'we want to protect all the military facilities we have but Oh, by the way, we don't want any more,'" he said.

There is a possibility that bases may not only be closed, but realigned as well.

"If you close one place, obviously the assets there would go somewhere else," said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland.

The committee meets for the first time Thursday. It will coordinate its efforts with a commission headed by Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue.


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