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Oklahoma House passes base closure legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Lawmakers hope to prevent the closure of Oklahoma's military bases with legislation passed by the state House Monday that creates a commission to analyze state policies that affect the bases.

The legislation is based on a report released in December by the Oklahoma Military Base Closure Prevention Task Force, which studied ways to hold on to Oklahoma's five military bases and their more than $3.9 billion annual economic impact.

``We feel like this is a top priority item,'' said the measure's author, Rep. David Braddock, D-Altus. Each of the state's military installations will be at risk when a government commission begins examining the need for the nation's bases in early 2005.

But the bill appropriates none of the approximately $4 million the task force recommended be spent to protect Oklahoma's military installations.

Braddock said the Department of Commerce, which will have authority over the new Office of Defense Affairs, will decide how to pay for its operation.

The report recommended giving a total of $1.25 million to five Oklahoma cities and towns to help them keep bases in their communities.

The report recommended another $2.75 million for infrastructure needs, job training, educational programs and other initiatives designed to promote the welfare of Oklahoma bases.

The legislation requires the Office of Defense Affairs to perform an assessment of each of the state's military bases including an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. Braddock said the assessment would cost about $200,000.
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