Mississippi Congressional Leaders Brace For Base Closings

Senator Trent Lott says years of working to improve our military installations puts them in a safe position. But Lott says an important issue the closure commission considers is the mission of each base.

"Do they have a mission that's critical or could that mission be moved someplace else. That's one reason why Keesler Air Force Base will not be in any jeopardy at all, they're multi-missioned, they do fantastic work and they're gonna be fine."

Lott says he feels just as confident about the Gulfport Seabee Base and Naval Station Pascagoula. But the senator says the role of the Pascagoula Coast Guard, which is based at the navy homeport, needs to expand.

"Their only mission at this time is drug interdiction, that type of work and back up defense work and we'd like to get more missions for Naval Station Pascagoula," Lott says.

Congressman Gene Taylor says no one has ever been able to justify to him the need to cut bases.

"It's a bunch of malarkey. We haven't saved any money to date. We've caused a lot of communities a lot of grief. We've caused a lot of retirees to lose their health care when the base hospital closed, to lose their commissary when the base closes," says the 4th District representative.

Taylor says he is working with house leaders to either eliminate the next round of closings or delay them. The retired general who is the liaison between Biloxi and the Air Force says if the talks go through, they will be very thorough.

"It takes more people to get one off, one base off the list than it does to put another one on and the President has to sign off on the whole thing and the Congress has to sign off to the whole thing," Clark Griffith says.