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N.C. Leaders Testify Before BRAC Commission

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Elizabeth Dole Addresses BRAC Commission
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley joined other state leaders and military personnel Tuesday to testify before a commission that has recommended closing Pope Air Force Base and sending as many as 4,000 more soldiers to Fort Bragg.

North Carolina officials, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, U.S. Reps. Bob Etheridge and David Price and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue were given two hours to make their case to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. They made it clear that the BRAC Commission's decision will have a huge impact on the state, where the military is an $18.1 billion industry and represents over 6 percent of the state's gross product.

"Our bases, all of them together, are the military power projection platform on the east coast," Perdue told the commission. "We should do nothing at all to jeopardize that."

"By expanding Fort Bragg while realigning Pope Air Force Base is missing an opportunity for interoperability and joint projection within North Carolina," Dole said.

Former Commanders at Fort Bragg and Pope said the two installations currently work together as a team and that by taking one away, the mission of getting troops anywhere in the world within 24 hours is jeopardized.

"Is there enough time to get an Air Force team to the installation to conduct planning and execution of an operation?" Ret. U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Dordal asked the commission.

A force of approximately 150 people from Fayetteville, including elected officials, also went to Charlotte to support their military neighbors. While not all of them were given an opportunity to speak, they hoped their presence sent a loud and clear message that Pope Air Force Base is an integral part of their community.

"Everyone around here knows that, but the folks in Charlotte, the folks in Washington, D.C. may not be cognizant of that fact," said Fayetteville Mayor Marshall Pitts Jr.

Only retired generals, for the most part, were allowed to address the commission. They said their focus would be on the procedure of how the Department of Defense arrived at its recommendation. Those allowed to speak were going to try to point out mistakes with the process.

The defense department wants to bring approximately 4,000 soldiers to Fort Bragg and a major command center from Georgia, FORSCOM.

Fort Bragg's gain would cancel out Pope's loss, but economic developers are nervous because the military brings in $5 billion to the Fayetteville area each year.

"It's naïve to think that the folks in Georgia aren't going to make a strong fight for keeping FORSCOM in the Atlanta area," said Tim Holverson of the Cumberland County Business Council.

Also at Tuesday's hearing were supporters of Cherry Point Air Station and the Army Research Office in Durham. Both face cuts under the BRAC proposal.

The commission is expected to make its final recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8. Bush then has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the commission's recommendations. If the president approves the list, Congress has 45 days to act, or it becomes law.


Melissa Buscher


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