Florida Base Closure Preps

When the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission put Whiting Field, a naval air station in the Florida Panhandle, on its hit list, then-Governor Lawton Chiles spoke with the panel's chairman. Whiting quickly came off the list.

Although current Governor Jeb Bush has an important friend in the White House - his brother, President Bush - no state, including Florida, is expected to have such clout in this year's base closure round. That's fine with retired Admiral Robert J. Natter, a Jacksonville consultant managing Florida's campaign to protect the state's 21 bases. Natter says Florida bases should benefit because they are high in military value and many are used by more than one service, two leading criteria this year.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld must release his closure list by May 16th. A new commission will have less than four months to make its recommendations to President Bush and then the list will go to Congress.