Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Republican Inaction Costs Tennessee

On Tuesday the Armed Services Committee voted 43-14 against legislation (H. J. RES. 65) that would block the closure of the 118th Air Lift Wing in Nashville. (Congressman Ford's bill, H. J. RES. 64, is identical to the bill that was voted upon) This comes in wake of several recent court rulings that appeared to be favorable to keeping the 118th in Tennessee.

From the very beginning of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's effort to close the 118th, Congressman Ford was there along with several Democratic colleagues. As time moved on, Ford took the leading role in trying to save the Air Lift Wing, which has been so crucial to Tennessee in so many ways over the years.

In a recent release, Ford said the following regarding the proposed closure of the base:

"Now is not the time to close bases. With almost 140,000 American troops serving in Iraq, 17,000 American troops serving in Afghanistan and more than 60,000 troops on the ground or aboard ships helping with relief and recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, our military is already overstretched.
Closing bases would only exacerbate the problem, especially since many of the units that President Bush recommends closing - such as the 118th Air Lift Wing based in Nashville - are critical to our nation's security.

"In the last three weeks, the men and women of the 118th have served their state, nation, and fellow Americans well by flying 100 missions to assist the Katrina relief efforts. All told, the 118th has delivered 175 tons of supplies and materiel and transported 142 patients to safety. Closing units like the 118th Airlift Wing in Nashville would seriously impede our ability to recover from natural disasters and protect us from terrorist attacks.

"It makes little sense to close or realign 28 major military installations and cut 29,000 military and civilian jobs while we are in the midst of major combat operations abroad and major relief efforts here at home. Yet that is exactly what the BRAC Commission's plan would do. That is why I introduced a resolution of opposition today that seeks to block implementation of the bases closures.

"The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina makes clear that we need to keep all resources available to be able to respond quickly and effectively when duty calls. Closing bases now would leave us less secure and would be a disservice to the people of this nation."

Nevertheless, despite Congressman Ford's tireless efforts to save the 118th along with his Democratic colleagues, most of the Republican delegation from Tennessee sat by and did nothing. Even the most powerful man in the Senate, Bill Frist, who is Senate Majority Leader, and a Presidential hopeful, stood idly by and did nothing.

U.S. Senate candidates Ed Bryant, Van Hilleary, and Bob Corker was also missing in action when it came to saving the 118th. This was a test of leadership and clearly the Republicans who did nothing to try to save the 118th from closing, failed miserably.

This is yet another example of the Republicans lack of interest in the real issues that face Tennessee. As they have shown time and time again, they are more interested in playing politics and attacking others than providing leadership and real solutions for our state and nation.

Congressman Ford's efforts to try to save the 118th Air Lift Wing were noble and laudable, and I, as a citizen of the state of Tennessee, thank him. He once again showed the leadership and stature of a U.S. Senator while his opponents failed miserably.