Daily Breeze

April 21, 2005

Final Air Force base push is made
A local task force stresses the importance of national security in its bid to retain the El Segundo facility.

By Otto Kreisher
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- A delegation from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday ended a three-day visit to the nation's capital that included a final effort to protect the Los Angeles Air Force Base from the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.

Delegation members said they have been stressing to officials and aides at the White House, Pentagon and Congress the valuable contribution the base makes to national security and the inability to reproduce the vast array of technical expertise, contractor access and academic support that surrounds the El Segundo facility.

The delegation members working the L.A. base issue were briefed to make sure that "they emphasize the national security aspects of taking the Los Angeles Air Force Base contract managers out of the synergistic relationship they have with The Aerospace Corporation and the surrounding industrial base," said Dan Aynesworth, a MOOG Aircraft Group official and part of the air base task force.

Though the chamber's printed material noted that the base and the Space and Missile Systems Center located there support an estimated $8 billion in economic activity and nearly 50,000 jobs in the area, "we're not talking about the economic impact. That's not an argument at this point," Aynesworth said.

"These guys are responsible for all the launch vehicles and satellite systems that not only the Air Force and the (other) armed services use, but the civilian population uses, too," he said, referring to the Space and Missile Systems personnel.

And in that mission, "The Aerospace Corporation is its right arm; it's its technical arm. It's the operation that does all the system architecture and system integration work for the air base," Aynesworth said.

The corporation is a federally funded research and development center, filled with civilian experts.

The missile center also is supported by major aerospace contractors, such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman, and the academic institutions located nearby, added Barbara Glennie, president of the Torrance Chamber and another member of the air base support group in Washington this week.

"It's not something that you can just move around," Glennie noted.

"You can move the air base personnel to Colorado or New Mexico or wherever, but you're not going to get the people who work in the industry or The Aerospace Corporation to move out of the South Bay area," Aynesworth agreed. "If you can't get them to move, then you've broken the chain of design capability."

Delegation members said they also reminded officials about the land swap agreement that is modernizing the air base and reducing its operating costs, most of which is being paid for by the land developers who are getting excess government land.

"That's one more positive thing," Glennie said.

Although the chamber had more than 50 members and aides on the annual Washington trip, a smaller group was carrying the message for the air base.

"We've been everywhere," said Helen Duncan, executive director of the Manhattan Beach Chamber and part of that group.

They talked to a presidential aide at the White House; the acting facilities executive, Phillip Grone, at the Pentagon; and much of the California congressional delegation, Duncan said.

The administration officials were not able to tell them anything because the Pentagon's closure list is being worked out behind closed doors. "We're just hopeful they'll understand how important it is to keep that base there," Duncan said. Glennie noted that a regional coalition has been working for a year and a half to build a case for the air base, supported by more than $800,000 raised for that purpose.

"We're not going to give up until the list comes out," Aynesworth said. "If we're not on the list, we'll continue to work" to make sure the commission does not seek to add the base to the closure list, he added.

By May 16, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must send the nine-member BRAC commission his recommendations on which of the 600-plus military facilities in this country should be closed, reduced or expanded.

The Pentagon has said it has about 24 percent "excess capacity" in its base infrastructure. But more recently Rumsfeld said less would be closed because the services will bring about 70,000 service members back from foreign bases.

Although then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney suggested closing the base in 1990, it was not considered by any of the four previous BRAC panels.