Another round of base closures
March 4, 2001
Disturbing talk is beginning to circulate on an issue of critical importance to the future of not only Naval Air Station Meridian but also the entire Meridian area: base closures. At this point, we know neither what's coming (if anything) nor exactly when.
It wouldn't be surprising to learn leaders of the successful project from the 1990s that helped save NAS Meridian are meeting again, thinking about how to keep NAS Meridian a viable part of the community. It would be appropriate to freshen the strategy, which could then be employed if the need arises.
The talk of base closures originated in Washington, D.C., where the Bush Administration is grappling with nagging problems in the military. Training, equipment, housing, pay and benefits are all important issues and must be resolved if the U.S. is to retain the competent, well-trained military personnel necessary to meet any threat any where in the world.
But as the Administration considers how to re-direct resources, we hope the importance of training missions is elevated to the highest priority. The mission of NAS Meridian, as one of the Navy's premier training stations, has been growing and expanding.
Congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., told the news media late last week they do not believe NAS Meridian will be a prime target for closure. They believe the Administration will propose a narrowly-focused round of closures designed to further weed out inefficiencies.
Obviously, members of the the Mississippi congressional delegation indeed, all of us have a tremendous interest not only in saving the missions of the state's existing military bases but also in strengthening them as appropriate.
A heightened awareness and monitoring of the emerging national defense policy is a good role for congressional leaders. Beginning to devise a new strategy is a good role for local leaders, too.
As a premier training installation, NAS Meridian has a crucial role to play in rebuilding the nation's military. We must all work together to make sure that role is fulfilled now and into the future.