Feb 14 2006

Shelby: Area's job future is good

Huntsville Times

By Wayne Smith

 

Senator vows to meet with general about MDA cuts

 

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby told an audience of about 1,000 Huntsville business leaders Monday that the Tennessee Valley must ready itself for the largest influx of jobs the area has seen in years.

 

Shelby was referring to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's decision to move about 4,700 jobs to Redstone Arsenal over the next several years.

 

"The future is here," Shelby said during his Washington Update breakfast at the Von Braun Center. "Huntsville, Madison County and Redstone will profit greatly from BRAC. The area has got to be ready."

 

That doesn't mean the area "won't get bad news every now and then," he said, referring to last week's reports of job cuts at Redstone.

 

A reorganization of the ground-based missile defense program will eliminate 415 jobs at the arsenal. Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, said last week that the reorganization comes at a time when the missile defense program is going through a transition phase, from building the system to operating it.

 

Shelby said Monday he plans to do everything he can to prevent the job cuts. "We're going to do what we can to save jobs," Shelby said. "We're going to meet with General Obering and find out why those jobs need to be cut."

 

Other topics Shelby talked about included:

 

Energy: Shelby said that the U.S. needs a workable energy policy. "If we (had an energy policy), we would be pumping oil from Alaska ." He said if the nation doesn't come up with alternative sources for fuel, "we will continue to export our wealth to Venezuela, Angola, Russia and the Persian Gulf ." Shelby also said he would like to see the process started toward building more nuclear power plants as an alternative energy source.

 

Patriot Act: Shelby said he would support the renewal of the Patriot Act, and would err on the side of security when it comes to electronic surveillance. "I believe the security of this nation is the No. 1 thing," said Shelby, a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "It's paramount."

 

Patriot Parkway: Shelby said the parkway, also known as the southern bypass, can be built. "The money is there; it's just a question of priorities" in the state. The $500 million bypass is a 13-mile shortcut from

Research Park Boulevard
through Redstone Arsenal to
South Memorial Parkway
near the Tennessee River .

 

Iraq and the war on terror: Shelby said the U.S. can't "just cut and run" from Iraq , but instead must decide in a measured way when to leave. "We're doing everything we can to fight the battle there and not here," he said. "The war on terror could go on for 100 years or more because there's such a religious divide."

 

Rebuilding New Orleans: As chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Shelby will hold hearings this week on a bill to advance hurricane recovery efforts in New Orleans . He said he wants to see New Orleans rebuilt, "but I don't want to see it rebuilt in areas that will continue to be flooded."