Stick to your plan, BRACC

Nevadans are supposed by their politicians to be outraged by plans by the federal Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRACC) to shut down the ammunition depot in Mineral County and to reduce the size of the Air National Guard fleet in Reno. The state’s congressional representatives have been filling the air with purple prose about the proposed cuts.

Why do our representatives always think we will always line up for pork, that we are less patriotic than other citizens? Jim Gibbons’ recent achievement of a pork barrel of money for the Deer Park swimming pool is not one they should take as a model of good governance.

Moving the ammo dump functions at Hawthorne to Tooele, Utah, makes operational sense to defense officials. So does transferring the 10 C-130s based in Reno to Arkansas.

Members of Congress set up the BRACC process to insulate base closings from political influence and now keep interfering with it. In 2001, after four rounds of base closing recommendations, the nation still had 400 military bases. The bloat needs reduction, including within Nevada.

One news report summed up the conflict: “The Pentagon says the government would avoid duplication and save money by moving the Hawthorne depot’s storage and recycling functions. … But local officials argue closing the base would result in the loss of about 1,200 jobs at the depot and elsewhere in the community—or about two-thirds of all jobs in the county.”

That’s the bottom line of opposition to the changes—that a community created artificially should be maintained indefinitely for the economic benefit of locals. But that’s not what military installations are for—they are for an efficient defense, not economic development. Nevada has learned the folly of using public works like prisons as economic development. And if any state understands the fact of communities in decline, it is this mining state.

Hawthorne itself had risen and fallen before the military ever arrived. Since a joint Army/Navy board first recommended establishment of the munitions depot on March 12, 1928, the city of Hawthorne has grown from about 700 to a little more than 3,300. Its population has been declining since the 1970 census, when its high of about 6,000 was reached.

Certainly, there had better be assistance for those people dislocated or thrown out of work by base closings, and legal questions about the aircraft transfer need to be settled, but keeping installations in place for the sake of keeping them in place makes no sense.

Since the Afghan war began, our politicians have constantly pandered to “our troops.” But respect for the military does not extend just to the soldier or sailor in the field. It extends also to the planners who must bring us the unwelcome news, and who deserve our support instead of home state pleading.

The base closing commission should stick to its plans for Nevada.