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Supervisors Join the Defense of Local Bases : Military: Board donates $10,000 and office space to the campaign to keep two Navy installations off the federal closure list.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The campaign to keep Ventura County’s military installations off the next base closure list received a $10,000 boost and free office space Tuesday from the County Board of Supervisors.

Concerned that the Pentagon could target Point Mugu and Port Hueneme Navy bases--along with the 20,000 jobs and the $1.5 billion they pump into the county economy--supervisors agreed to help a local task force raise $350,000 to mount a defensive campaign.

“We not only need to be working together as a community, but we need to make sure that the people in Washington know how important these bases are to the economy in this county,” Supervisor Maggie Kildee said.

County officials agreed to administer a contract that the task force is drawing up with Washington consultants, who will monitor the base closing process and analyze data.

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But the lobbying firm that the Ventura group is considering--Thicksten, Grimm & Burgum--has received mixed reviews from past clients.

“I didn’t like them,” said Mayor Gloria Webb from Portsmouth, Va., who worked with the firm to spare the Norfolk Naval Shipyard last year. “I’ll give them the fair shake; they came in at the tail end. But the people they sent down here were real young.”

“When we went to give testimony, it just fell apart because we were not prepared,” she added. The first speaker barely made it through an elaborate slide show before time ran out before the President’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission, she said.

The shipyard, added to the base closure list halfway through the process, was eventually spared from closing. And Thicksten, Grimm & Burgum applied this year to represent the entire Norfolk region in the next round of base closings.

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“There were problems” with the firm, said Arthur Collins, who screened the consultants as head of Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. “We’re working with another group this year.”

Representatives of the lobbying firm could not be reached for comment. But Cal Carrera, who heads the local task force, said the firm has received positive references from other clients, including the cities of Long Beach and Monterey.

Still, he added that the contract is under discussion and could be adjusted to address any concerns. “The BRAC task force consists of people who do contracts for a living,” he said.

The release of the 1995 list is still six months away, but communities across the country are mustering funds, analysts and lobbyists to spare their local bases.

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In the past three rounds of base closures, military base supporters and nearby civic leaders found it was too late to start lobbying when the local military installation appeared on the Pentagon’s list of recommended closures. This year, they’re hoping to shape or control the data that the Pentagon uses to prepare the list.

Every base across the country has received Pentagon requests for information detailing the base’s military significance and its efforts to be cost-effective.

Committees of military officers feed the information into computer formulas and use it to rank bases on various factors. These rankings help determine which bases end up on the Pentagon’s recommended hit list.

The list then goes to the commission appointed by the President for a final decision. President Clinton and Congress must accept or reject the entire list.

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Carrera said the first task is to determine how Ventura County’s bases stack up against other similar facilities in the Pentagon’s analysis.

“We have to get data, but it’s behind closed doors,” Carrera said. “We have to go in there and subversively get it. It’s going to take a lot of time, money and human resources for this defense.”

With the donation from the county, the Ventura task force has now raised about $30,000 toward its fund-raising goal, he said. The group of engineers and economists hopes to raise $190,000 from city governments and $150,000 from private sources.

The price tag is low, he said, for what could be the “largest economic threat to the county in years.”

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Supervisor John K. Flynn pointed out that the $1.5 billion the military bases pump into the county’s economy each year far exceeds the $900 million from agriculture.

If one of the bases were to close, Carrera said the job loss would extend beyond the military and civilian jobs on base. It would also affect local defense contractors and other spinoff businesses.

“We really cannot sustain such a job loss,” Supervisor Vicky Howard said. “We’ve had floods, we’ve had earthquakes. Our economy is still reeling.”

Even with the lobbying effort and fund-raising campaigns, the local task force cannot guarantee its efforts will keep the two Navy bases off the list, which will be released March 1.

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Supervisor Susan Lacey recalled watching communities plead for their bases at last year’s hearings, which were televised on C-SPAN. She saw the commission soften to the pleas, but then close the bases anyway.

“The real thing I learned is: Don’t get on the list!” she said. “On March 2, we want to be talking about tulips or something other than base closings.”


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