VALDOSTA -- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has announced his intention of closing 25 percent of all military bases in the next BRAC (base realignment and closure commission) in 2005, putting in jeopardy the 13 bases currently located in Georgia.

"I'm not optimistic about our chances of holding on to all 13 with the proposed 25 percent reduction," Kingston said. "Not everything is going to make it, and you don't want to take anything for granted."

Speaking at an informal meeting of business and community leaders Tuesday at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce, Kingston encouraged those present to continue working on behalf of Moody Air Force Base.

"The search and rescue mission helps a lot to ensure Moody is in good shape," he said, although "Fort Stewart might not be safe, and even Benning might have problems."

He added that the current labor disputes at Warner-Robins may also hurt that base's chances.

Kingston said he has two staff members solely dedicated to working on BRAC-related issues. As a member of the House Military Construction Subcommittee on Appropriations, Kingston has requested the following projects for Moody:

$7.34 million for a maintenance hangar

$9.47 million for a consolidated base support center

$6.5 million for a child development center

$5 million for a new 347th Rescue Wing dining facility

Kingston said that although the next BRAC is nearly two years away, he is continuously monitoring the process.

Last week, at a summit meeting of business, education and community leaders in Valdosta, the decision was made to make the protection of Moody from BRAC as one of the group's two primary objectives, with further assistance to the Moody Support Committee being offered.

With the assistance of Parker Greene and a coalition of community leaders, Moody was taken off the base closure list in 1992. Valdosta-Lowndes County has continued to lobby to protect the base and enhance its mission to prevent it from being added to any future closure lists.

The Air Force base is the area's largest employer and one of the top economic contributors to the community.



To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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