Funds given for study on warding off base closures

Wednesday, October 1st 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Up to $40,000 in state money will be given to each of the cities surrounding Oklahoma's military bases for surveys to determine the best way to protect the installations from possible closure, Gov. Brad Henry said Wednesday.

The Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission has voted to allocate the money as it prepares for an impending round of cuts as part of the federal Base Realignment and Closure Act.

Survey findings will be incorporated into a state-coordinated plan to protect Altus Air Force Base, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Vance Air Force Base in Enid, the U.S. Army Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill in Lawton and the Army Ammunition Plant near McAlester.

The affected communities will cover 10 percent of the cost of the surveys and the state will pick up the remaining 90 percent of the cost.

Oklahoma's military bases provide a large boost to the state's economy. Tinker alone employs 28,000 military and civilian personnel.

"Although we realize the major responsibility for protecting the basses lies with our congressional delegation, it is incumbent upon us in state government to help as much as possible," Henry said. "These funds will help the impact communities research and evaluate how best to guard against the budget ax."

Nearly 100 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.

Last week, the commission recommended the Oklahoma Department of Transportation do two improvement projects near military installations.

The panel wants the department to assist with road construction near Vance Air Force Base. The work is necessary because the city of Enid has purchased 158 acres of land to create a buffer zone near the base.

For Fort Sill, the panel is requesting the department modify a rail system in order to better accommodate the transportation of military equipment.

Each of the projects has an estimated cost of $2 million.

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