Other views: Air bases are off BRAC list
When I saw the B-52 from the Minot Air Force Base do a flyover of the North Dakota State Fair grounds in Minot, I thought it was a fitting cap to a week when the message was that all three of our state's military bases have escaped the Base Closu...
When I saw the B-52 from the Minot Air Force Base do a flyover of the North Dakota State Fair grounds in Minot, I thought it was a fitting cap to a week when the message was that all three of our state's military bases have escaped the Base Closure Commissions' closure list.
I am so proud of all three of our bases and the men and women who serve and work there.
Some people predicted that our state wouldn't escape the closure knife during this base closing round. They were certain that our state would lose one of its major air bases.
But action by the Base Closing Commission in Washington, D.C. was good news for the Minot Air Force Base, the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and the Happy Hooligans at the National Guard Base in Fargo.
The final legal opportunity for the Base Closing Commission to put one of our military bases on a list for "closure" was at that meeting. And none of the three North Dakota bases were added to a potential list to be closed.
We now know that our three military bases will remain open in North Dakota for many years to come. That is great news for our state and it is the right decision for our country.
The Fargo Air National Guard, known as the Happy Hooligans, will remain open and will be connected to the UAV mission at the Grand Forks Air Base. But we are also continuing to press for the Happy Hooligans to have a flying mission at Fargo. After all, this is the Air Guard unit that has won the William Tell competition three times. That is the competition that evaluates the best fighter pilots and crews. Why on earth would the Air Force want to take airplanes away from its best pilots?
The Grand Forks Air Force Base, we now know, was put on list for possible closure last December by Air Force and Pentagon planners who were building their list of bases to be closed. It was taken off that list only days before the list was made public. All of us worked hard during that period to make the case for keeping the base open.
With actions by the Base Closing Commission, the base will remain open. The Air Force wants to create a major Unmanned Aerial Vehicle base at Grand Forks. They also have said they want to keep open the possibility of keeping tankers at the base.
The Minot Air Force Base never became a serious target for closure because it is a dual mission base hosting both B-52s and the Minuteman missiles. These are both important missions that will be around for the long term. While every military base was discussed in the Air Force's development of its plan, the presence of the missiles in Minot - the number of missiles is a product of arms control agreements - kept it from being seriously considered for a list of bases to be closed.
All in all, the news is good for our state. There is more work to be done to make sure the missions at Grand Forks and Fargo are robust, growing missions. But for now, to get through another round of base closings and not have one of our three bases on the list for closure is a relief.
All three of our military bases are important for our national security. But they are also very important to our economy. Hosting thousands of military families and thousands of civilian jobs is a real boost to North Dakota's economy.
In the final analysis, we will - long into the future - be able to be proud hosts to three of the outstanding military bases in America.
Dorgan has served North Dakota in the U.S. Senate since 1992. He is chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee.