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CALIFORNIA LOBBYING SAID VITAL PANEL URGES STATE TO SHOW BASES NEEDED.

Byline: Staff and Wire Services

SACRAMENTO - California must fight the perception that it's unfriendly to military bases as it lobbies for the defense installations in the next round of base closings and realignments, an advisory panel said Thursday.

A report by the California Council on Base Support and Retention provided an inventory of the state's 30 major military sites, outlining California's strengths in technology, terrain and location.

California's location on the Pacific Rim is key to keeping national security strong from future threats, said co-chairwoman Donna Tuttle. It is also the core of a complex of test and training ranges across the Southwest.

And its varied terrain - mountain ranges, expansive tracts of lands and deep-water ports - are crucial for military training and deployment, she said.

These are ``irreplaceable and not found in other states,'' Tuttle said.

In the latest Base Realignment and Closure program, commonly known as BRAC, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will issue his proposal May 16 for which bases to close.

A federal base closure commission will hold hearings through the summer and issue its recommendations to President George W. Bush in September. The commission's list is approved in November unless Congress overturns it.

California has a lot at stake because the military contributes more than $42 billion in wages and retirement pay and provides jobs for 279,000 active-duty military, civilians and reservists, said Leon Panetta, co-chairman of the council.

``We're talking about an industry second only to tourism,'' said Panetta, a former U.S. House member from Monterey and one-time chief of staff to former President Clinton.

In the Antelope Valley, at stake are the two largest centers of employment: Edwards Air Force Base, with roughly 11,500 workers, and Air Force Plant 42, with more than 6,700.

The council held six public meetings throughout the state in preparing its report, including one in Lancaster.

``Anecdotes portray California as a potentially negative place for the military and for national security,'' the report said. Among the concerns aired at the meetings were California's high costs of labor and living, environmental rules and encroachment from developers.

Yet, the report concluded, ``people in California overwhelmingly support the mission of the U.S. military and are honored to play a role in the nation's defense.''

The state can do more to work with the military, the council said, to combat the perception it is hostile to bases. As an example, it held up a cost-sharing arrangement between the city of Monterey and the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey that allows the military to save about $40 million a year.

In previous reviews, California has suffered a ``dramatically disproportionate burden,'' the report said, with 29 base closures or realignments between 1988 and 1995. That amounted to about 30 percent of the total number of bases closed, and accounted for half of the job losses related to the reorganization.

``We want to ensure that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past,'' when California failed to present a united front in lobbying for its bases, Panetta said.

Because communities were left largely on their own to fight for their bases, ``the Department of Defense was able to pick California apart,'' Panetta said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 8, 2005
Words:534
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