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franklin county times

Lott: Don't mothball closed military bases

By By Erin Hilsabeck / staff writer
July 26, 2004
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott says he believes military bases hit by the next round of base closures should be available for use in local economic development projects.
Lott, one of two Republican senators from Mississippi, said the bases targeted for closure should not be locked up and saved by the armed forces for possible future use.
Lott, who spoke with The Meridian Star editorial board, talked about base closure efforts, this fall's presidential race and the alleged disappearance of terrorism documents from the National Archives.
The Meridian Star: Do you know anything about BRAC, base realignment and closure efforts, in regard to Meridian?
Trent Lott: We do have the defense authorization bill in conference. The House, to its credit, was able to add a two-year delay in the base closure procedure. In the Senate, we lost on a very close vote. But I did get accepted, toward the end of the session, what is known as the "mothballing amendments."
It's not the kind of positive thing I'd like to have. But it basically just says that if we have bases around the country that are closed, the military shouldn't just lock them up and save them for some future use. They should be turned over to the local communities or to the state to make good use of them, perhaps as economic development centers, which we've seen happen at some of the bases that have been closed in the past.
The Star: Do you have any indication that Mississippi military bases might be in danger?
Lott: No, I don't have any indication at all. There have been some people in Mississippi that said, Well, if it does happen, then we want to at least make some positive use of the base."
I don't want BRAC to go forward at this time not in the way that they've got it designed, not until we close bases overseas that are redundant or not needed.
If it does happen, whether if it's a base in Alabama or one in Virginia or one in New York or Mississippi, I want us to make some positive use of the facilities.
The Star: What do you see happening in the approaching presidential campaign?
Lott: I think it's important to notice there are big differences between the Bush campaign, and what they will do in the future, and what the Kerry campaign will advocate.
The Star: How do you feel about the Bush campaign?
Lott: I've been concerned that they haven't talked enough about a positive agenda, but all the signs are that they're working on one and going to begin to unveil it in August.
In the end I think the Bush-Cheney ticket will win and, my guess is, by a pretty comfortable margin. But it will depend on how the campaign is run from here on out.
The Star: How well do you know U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate? And how well does he qualify to be president?
Lott: I've served my entire 17 years in the Senate with him. Now, he's been gone, for the most part, for over a year, but he was around a lot before that. We have worked together on some issues. Actually, we worked together on some of the issues involving the Middle East and Iraq years ago.
John Kerry's a pleasant enough fellow, and he is very capable. But again, he did not leave much of a mark in the Senate. He was not that actively involved in issues in terms of personal time involved. But he is qualified. His education and his military experience, he served as a local official, a state official and as a senator. He certainly is familiar with foreign policy and defense and domestic issues.
I disagree with Kerry probably about 90 percent of the time on those issues, but at least he's been involved and is capable of debating them with you. The problem is that he is on the far left of the Democratic party, and I just don't believe the American people are ready to put a person with that philosophy in as president.
The Meridian Star: What do you think about Sandy Berger and the alleged disappearance of terrorism documents from the National Archives?
Lott: I know Sandy Berger quite well. I worked with him pretty closely when he was a national security advisor to President Clinton. He is experienced, so I found it pretty hard to believe that he would get involved in taking these classified documents, stuffed in his coat or in his pants.
As it turned out, there is a criminal investigation by the Justice Department underway. It looks like he did take entire blocks of classified documentation in five or six areas. Some of those papers have now been misplaced or lost. He knows better than that. So, I think he has a problem.
I think we should at least wait and see what happens in the Justice Department. Depending on what they find out or what they do, some further investigation may be called for. Frankly, I'm a little perplexed on what to think. I know Sandy Berger is a good man and knew better than this.

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