Military bases safe from closure for 2017

Military bases safe from closure for 2017

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Military bases throughout the country received good news on Friday when Sen. Roger Wicker announced that no bases will close in 2017 through the National Defense Authorization Act.

The threat of closure is over for another year for Keesler Air Force Base; a nice 75th anniversary gift for. The City of Biloxi is breathing a sigh of relief.

"As you know, the military impact across the entire Gulf Coast from Ingalls, Keesler to the Seabee Base is just huge," said David Nichols, chief administrative officer with the City of Biloxi. "And if we lose any one of those cogs in the wheel, it would really impact the whole economy."

Keesler alone created a $1.67 billion economic impact in 2015.

"We feel like with everything they do - the hospital, the flying missions, the reservists - everything really is very strong here at Keesler Air Force Base," Nichols said. "So we're very pleased that if there won't be any impact to the Air Force Base in the near future."

Former base commander Lt. Gen. Clark Griffith has had his hands full fighting to keep Keesler off the Base Realignment And Closure Committee's radar.

"Once they come with something from BRAC, the thrashing begins," Griffith said.

As part of the Mississippi Military Communities Council, Griffith had experience with BRAC in 2005.

"The base was not in jeopardy, but they went after our medical center," Griffith said. "And that was a real surprise, and we fought them and we won. Something happens to Keesler, something happens to Biloxi."

But, Griffith is also aware that there is a problem that won't go away soon.

"It's good news that no, we don't have to worry about that this year," Griffith said. "But the bad news is at some point, for the good of the country, we've got to fix this overage that we have in bases. We've just got too many bases."

Wicker says the 815th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Keesler will return to full strength by 2019; and the 403rd Wing will get new jobs with a maintenance unit and aeromedical evacuation squadron.

The defense bill will also full fund the construction of two guided missile destroyers, and incremental funding for a third.

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