Local leaders working to protect SAFB from base closure list

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by Elizabeth Eisele / KMOV Staff | @ElizEisele

KMOV.com

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 4:57 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 21 at 5:20 PM

(KMOV.com) -- If Scott Air Force Base ever were to close, the impact would be devastating. That has prompted state and local leaders to mount an effort to keep SAFB off any future base closing list.

Senator Dick Durbin and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon brought a top ranking Air Force official, General Mark Welsh, in to tour the base. The military hasn’t started to make of list of bases to close, but President Obama has proposed another round of base realignment and closures called BRAC.

Just last week, an undersecretary of Defense told Congress that Air Force bases have too much capacity and base closings are inevitable.

The thousands of airmen and civilian employees at SAFB spend money in the community, buying things like sandwiches at restaurants and vehicles at local car dealerships.

“It’s a large number,” said car dealership employee Art Martin, “and it would hurt if [SAFB] ever closed.”

The Metro-East housing market said they are fueled by homebuyers from the base.

“Having worked here in real estate and being a former Air Force wife,” Roxann Bohstedt, a real estate broker, said, “I can tell you it’s critical.”

SAFB is the third largest employer in the St. Louis area, pumping $2.3 billion into the local economy each year, $341 million of that into housing and $12 million into local schools. In addition, visitors to the base book over 100,000 hotel nights each year.

Elected leaders are fighting to protect that.

“Today’s meeting was preemptive to make sure the Air Force understands the support of Scott Air Force Base in the community,” said Durbin, “and to make sure we understand how the Air Force views the future of Scott Air Force Base.”

Elected leaders said they are also trying to protect the base from separate, deep defense department budget cuts by stressing the importance to the military.

“The world doesn’t get touched by the US Air Force of by the US Military,” said Congressman Bill Enyart, “without Scott Air Force Base.”

If there is another round of base closings, it would happen in 2017. 

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