Springfield State Journal Register

June 30, 2005

Opinion on Guard bases sought
BRAC chairman asks about governors’ role


WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission has made a formal request to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for a legal opinion on whether the Pentagon cannot close or change Guard facilities without the states’ permission - a position held by some governors and National Guard officials.

Rod Blagojevich of Illinois was the first governor to make that claim in an effort to stop the transfer of the F-16 fighters from the 183rd Fighter Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard at Abraham Lincoln Capitol Airport in Springfield.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has threatened to file a legal challenge to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s recommendation that the Springfield fighter wing be dismantled. Other governors have joined in that claim and the threat of legal challenges.

“The commission is severely constrained in formulating its recommendations to the president as to which military installations should be closed or realigned without a clear understanding of the (defense) secretary’s authority,” chairman Anthony Principi said in his letter.

Principi noted that a provision in federal law governing military activities says permission of a governor is required before any National Guard facility in his or her state can be “changed” or “relocated or withdrawn.”

“I am not aware of any authority that clearly indicates contrariwise,” Principi, who is an attorney, told Gonzales.

In his letter, Principi asked Gonzales whether “the federal government, acting through the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990, as amended, possess the authority to carry out the proposed realignments and closure of Army National Guard and Air National Guard installations in the absence of a consultative process with the governors of the various states? If not, what measures would be necessary to satisfy the consultative requirement?”

He also asked whether “the litigation being contemplated by various state attorneys general or other intervening legal proceedings” could delay or block the BRAC process.

Although the letter was dated May 23, it was made public on the commission’s Web only site this week.

It could not be determined immediately Wednesday whether Gonzales had responded.

But in one of the first hearings the commission held here, an expert from the Congressional Research Service said the provision cited by Principi and the governors does not apply to the BRAC process.

A number of Air National Guard facilities were closed or changed in the previous four BRAC rounds.