Posted: May 13, 2005 3:32 pm EST

McAlester Army Ammunition Plant off list (~17 col. in.)
by James Beaty/McAlester (Okla.) News-Capital
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    By James Beaty
    CNHI News Service

    McALESTER, Okla. - It’s official.
    The McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is not on the list of bases targeted for closure by the Pentagon.
    U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., made the announcement at a morning press conference at the McAlester Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.
    Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., called the McAlester News-Capital with the news at the same time.
    Not only McAAP, but all of Oklahoma’s major military bases are recommended to remain open.
    Boren made the announcement to a packed room at the Chamber.
    “We’ve got good news to share,” he said.
    Boren said he had received an e-mail confirming that McAAP is not on the list of bases the Pentagon is recommending be closed by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
    “We’re not on the list for several reasons,” Boren said.
    He cited community support as one.
    “We provide over 90 percent of the munitions for Iraq and Afghanistan,” Boren said.
    Inhofe, the second-highest ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday’s announcement is good news for Oklahoma.
    “Nobody closes,” he said. “McAlester will continue as is. It’s not affected in a major way. The fear of reduction is not happening.”
    McAAP has approximately 1,300 employees, with another 250 workers at the Defense Ammunition Center. The base has 45,000 acres — with around 20,000 acres available for expansion.
    Asked if there’s the possibility of McAAP picking up any more employees or missions because of closures or realignments at other bases, Boren said he plans to watch farther developments.
    “There are six different facilities that are potential matches for McAlester,” he said. “It’s still very early.”
    Boren said there will still be field hearings and he will travel to any base if he thinks there’s a possibility it could help McAlester.
    Questioned about if McAAP had ever been in any real danger of closing, Boren mentioned an article he said appeared in a newspaper in Biloxi, Miss., about five days ago.
    He said the article mentioned a source as saying the Pentagon wanted to get away from government-owned, government-operated facilities such as the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.
    The article had listed a source saying McAAP was on the list, Boren said, causing renewed efforts by his office.
    He credited his military liaison, former McAlester resident Jason Buckner, for his work in support of McAAP.
    Boren said Oklahoma will have a net gain of nearly 4,000 jobs, with most of the additions at Fort Sill in Lawton, which will gain around 3,602 jobs.
    Inhofe said Fort Sill is gaining the ADA Artillery School from Fort Bliss and a Basic Officer Leadership Course.
    Boren said Tinker Air Force Base is slated to gain 355 jobs; Altus will gain 355 and Vance Air Force Base will gain 99.
    He said Altus Air Force Base will lose about 16 jobs because of a realignment.
    During the press conference at the Chamber, District 7 State Rep. Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, said Friday’s action shows the people here made the right decision in voting to send Boren to Washington.
    The list will go to the BRAC Commission, which must deliver a list of bases recommended for closing to President George W. Bush in September.
    Boren said there’s still no guarantee that the BRAC Commission won’t decide on its own to place MCAAP on a closure or realignment list.
    “We’re not out of the woods yet,” Boren said.
    After the final BRAC recommendations, Congress must accept or reject the list it gets from the president in its entirety.
    After Friday's announcement, McAlester residents rejoiced.
    “Whoever said Friday the 13th was unlucky?” said Pittsburg County Election Board Secretary Carolyn Morris.

    James Beaty writes for the McAlester (Okla.) News-Capital.

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