June 17, 2005

Wyden Testifies Before BRAC Commission

Senator opposes plans to realign 142nd Fighter Wing at Portland Air Base

Portland, OR U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) testified today before the Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission regarding the potential dangers of proposed changes to the 142nd Fighter Wing at Portland Air Base. Wyden was joined by fellow Oregon leaders and various military experts in opposing a Pentagon plan to realign the Wing by moving all but two alert fighter jets out of Portland; that move would severely compromise the security of Oregon and the entire Northwest.The BRAC Commission is currently considering Defense Department proposals for base closures and realignments across the country. They are expected to make their recommendations to the President in September of this year.Senator Wydens prepared testimony follows:U.S. Senator Ron WydenPrepared Testimony before the Defense Base Closure and Realignment CommissionJune 17, 2005Good morning and welcome to Oregon. Thank you, Chairman Principi and Commissioners Hansen, Coyle and Bilbray for your patriotism and your service. You all will have plenty of welts on your back when you are done trekking around the country on this mission.As you travel across America, more often than not, the local Congress people will come out to say that if this base, or that installation, in their neighborhood is closed, well, Western Civilization will pretty much come to an end.I wont say that. But I am going to try to convince you that the initial recommendations for the Portland Air Base will leave the airspace over the Pacific Northwest uniquely isolated, dangerously unprepared, and virtually defenseless if the enemy chooses to attack this corner of the homeland from the air. These recommendations defy common sense.Heres why:The first map you see demonstrates how the 142nd Fighter Wing currently patrols and protects the Pacific Northwest.The second map shows how vulnerable the Northwest will be if our region is left with just two alert fighters.After removing most of the fighters to Atlantic City and New Orleans, the Pentagons proposal would make it impossible for the region to respond if a large scale attack or multiple simultaneous attacks are launched here.Under the Defense Departments plan, it would take additional alert fighters hours to arrive from elsewhere, refuel, and begin responding to any aggression.Its na?ve to act as though our enemies will come at us one at a time. Yet the Pentagon plan seems predicated on that very hope.I would also like to point out that this sacrifice of the regions security is being proposed with a plan that moves most of the fighters to a facility with a lower military value, at a cost to the taxpayers.If the goal of the BRAC Commission is to save dollars, lets look at it that way. Sharp-pencil accounting alone provides a plethora of reasons to reject the Pentagons recommendations. The Secretarys plan for the Northwest simply fails to meet the fundamental goal of saving taxpayer dollarsIm on the Senate Budget Committee as well, and let me tell you now: there arent dollars to spare on sloppy financial management when the whole goal of this process is to keep from breaking the bank. This country cant afford to move bases and units at a loss.This plan would move the 142nd at a loss. The proposal for the 939th Air Refueling Wing is another poor fiscal decision.This Wing is in the last phase of a long-term transformation that has already cost the Air Force more than $60 million. Secretary Rumsfelds plan would throw away this investment just to move the Wing.He admits that his plan would cost so much that the Air Force wouldnt break even for seven years. At a maximum, the plan would save only $42 million in ten years.Scrapping a $60 million investment in an attempt to save $42 million simply doesnt make sense. This proposal will waste, not save, taxpayer dollars.Other witnesses will be testifying on these issues today, so I wont dwell on them, but I encourage you to keep your green eyeshades on as you examine the Pentagons plan.And lastly, I want to conclude by saying that at the end of the day, this is not just about maps, or charts, or dollars: its about people.Not long ago Oregonians woke up to this headline in the local paper: Wars Toll Far Worse on Oregon. At the end of 2004, the death rate for Oregon National Guard members in Iraq was nearly three times that of the National Guard as a whole. In the first six months of 2005 our state has lost three more Guard members.At a time when Oregonians are being asked to make a disproportionately high sacrifice of lives in Iraq, and in the face of the Pentagons recommendations that simply defy common sense, I strongly encourage the Commission to reject the Pentagons recommendations.