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Panel plans strategy to keep military bases

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Gov. Brad Henry has asked a state commission for recommendations on how to protect Oklahoma's five military bases from being affected by the next round of military base closures.

Members of the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission said Wednesday that the 2005 round of military base closures will be a top-down process with limited input from the states that will be affected.

About 97 bases have been closed during the federal Base Realignment and Closure process since 1988. Oklahoma is one of only seven states that have not lost a base.

``We want to do anything we can to prevent any negative impact from the BRAC process,'' Henry said.

The commission is reviewing options for the state to present to U.S. Department of Defense officials, outlining reasons not to close Tinker, Vance or Altus Air Force bases, Fort Sill or the Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester.

``We can't afford to take anything for granted,'' retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Burpee said. ``As someone said, all of the easy fruit has been plucked from the trees.''

The commission's chairman, Rep. David Braddock, D-Altus, said much of the commission's work will center on the communities where the bases are located and helping them protect themselves from economic and job losses.

Lawmakers have set aside $1.5 million for the process: $250,000 for each community, plus $250,000 for a study assessing the state's bases.

Henry said the commission's recommendations should include ways to support the state's congressional delegation as it works to keep the Oklahoma bases open.

``This process is critical,'' Henry said. ``We don't have a lot of time to spare.''

The Defense Department is stressing joint uses and unique functions as positive criteria for saving bases from closure, Braddock said.

George Moses, a retired Army colonel formerly with military contractor United Defense, said that with modern warfare, the role of technology is also key.

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