Note: For audio of state Rep. Joe Dorman discussing the BRAC bill, go to http://www.okhouse.gov/OkhouseMedia/audio.aspx and select "Dorman--BRAC"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: State Rep. Joe Dorman
Capitol: (405) 557-7305
Southwest Oklahoma Leaders Praise Passage of Military Base Protection Bill
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 24, 2007) – Fort Sill and other military installations in Oklahoma will be less likely to face closure in the future thanks to legislation approved today, southwest lawmakers said today.
Senate Bill 751 would create the Military Base Protection and Expansion Act, which would provide funds to military communities for infrastructure improvements needed as the result of an increased military presence. The latest round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decisions resulted in expansions at several Oklahoma bases.
"Senate Bill 751 has been a team effort since day one," said Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat whose district includes Fort Sill. "I want to thank Don Davis from the Governor's staff for spearheading the meetings that got us past the minor difference holding up passage. Politics should not play any part in this process that benefits so many Oklahomans."
"I cannot emphasize enough how important this bill is to our military communities. Getting this passed this session was critical," said state Sen. Randy Bass, a Lawton Democrat who also represents Fort Sill. "I again want to commend the entire delegation from the Lawton area, as well as legislators representing other military communities for their hard work on this bill."
"This has been a purely nonpartisan issue for all of us who represent military installations," said state Rep. David Braddock, a Democrat whose district includes Altus Air Force Base. "Everyone has put in a lot of hard work and should be commended for their efforts to protect our bases."
"I am very proud of the entire southwest delegation. Their bipartisan efforts should prevent the closure of Oklahoma's military bases during the next round of BRAC," said Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, a former state lawmaker from Duncan.
Last year, the Legislature committed $1 million to the "Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission Incentive Fund," which allowed communities that are home to military bases to apply for matching grants to use for infrastructure and road improvements. The appropriation allows the planning commission to leverage federal matching funds.
The fund was created in 2005 following the federal government's latest round of the "base realignment and closure" process, also known as BRAC. Under that system, the Pentagon draws up a list of bases its experts believe are no longer needed.
Oklahoma is home to Altus Air Force Base, Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Fort Sill Army Post in Lawton, the Army Ammunition Depot in McAlester, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Air National Guard Units in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and the Army National Guard Unit at Camp Gruber.
The Pentagon's list of base closures did not include a single major Oklahoma installation and actually endorsed shifting as many as 10,000 jobs from other parts of the country to Oklahoma.
The combined economic impact of Oklahoma's military installations on the state economy is an estimated $6 billion per year.
"This bill shows the BRAC Commission we are serous about taking care of our soldiers, their families and the communities in which they live," Dorman said. "Though Representative Armes and Senator Bass were the primary authors, each area legislator representing a military installation was included in all phases of discussion. This shows we put our soldiers above petty partisan politics."
Senate Bill 751 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 95-2 vote on Thursday and now awaits Gov. Brad Henry's signature.