Will Changing Washington Affect Coast Bases?

South Mississippi is thankful for its strong military presence and keeping its many bases intact is important to the coast's economy. Keesler Air Force Base has a $1.4 billion impact on our economy, and in Jackson County, they count on about $100 million from Naval Station Pascagoula. So are coast leaders worried that these bases will suffer from the shift of power on Capitol Hill when the topic of base closings rears its ugly head?

"I don't think we change our strategy, but I don't really know what the national strategy is going to be," Coast Chamber of Commerce President Chevis Swetman said. "So I just don't know I know politics is very strange, and again, I think we are trying to prepare for any possible contingency at this time."

Jim Robinson is with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and says, "Our bases are strong, they're efficient and that's what the Pentagon looks for, Homeport, Keesler and Hancock County are all very efficient bases."

In addition to Keesler and Pascagoula's homeport, South Mississippi is also home to the Seabee base and Stennis Space Center, as well as, the Air National Guard Base. While Trent Lott has been the Senate Majority Leader he has seen to it that millions and millions of dollars come to the state, so does his becoming the Senate Minority Leader hurt us here?

"We have the same hundred senators today that we had yesterday," Robinson said. "They know what's important, defense is important."

"It worries me that we're not going to be the majority leader, but what is even a greater concern is the fact that I was hoping that Sen. Cochran would be on line to head the Appropriations committee," Sweatman said. "So I don't think that what has happened up in Washington is a step forward, but I'm not sure it's a step backward."

He also says he was at a regional meeting in Washington in March where it was announced that the next round of base closings will start in January of 2003.