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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Base closing vote predicted to be close

The BRAC decision on the closing of the sub base in Groton is coming soon and by all indications, the vote will be close.

From the Hartford Courant

James V. Hansen, a member of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, took a quarter out of his pocket Saturday morning and flipped it in the air.

That, he said, is how to predict the outcome of the panel's vote this week on the fate of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

The nine-member panel heard the Pentagon defend its decision Saturday to shut Groton and close or realign 61 other major military facilities around the country. It would take five votes to save the Groton base.

There were hints that the Groton decision could be a close vote. After his coin flip, Hansen, a former Republican congressman from Utah, said Groton "has a very compelling case."

Supporters saw fresh reasons for cautious optimism.

Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi again expressed concern that New England was being virtually abandoned, and held up a map to dramatize his feelings. "I question the wisdom of" the Pentagon's plan to close seven major Northeastern bases, he said. Other members wondered if the region's homeland security would be jeopardized.

In his opening remarks, Principi singled out an Aug. 15 letter from former President Jimmy Carter supporting the Groton base.

Commission member James H. Bilbray, a former Democratic congressman from Nevada, was skeptical of the Navy's estimate of how much money would be saved by closing the Groton base, a point Team Connecticut, the group leading the fight to save the base, has been making.


But Pentagon officials stuck to their insistence that Groton should be closed, even as Bilbray noted that a group of retired admirals had recently told commission members, often in emotional terms, why Groton should remain open.

"Everyone felt closing New London was a bad idea," Bilbray said, pointing out that the former admirals felt compelled to tell commission members how strongly they felt.